The holidays, hand-washing and hygiene

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By Kimberly Baker, Marie Hegler, Adair Hoover, Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service

The very first things we wonder when becoming sick with a foodborne illness is what caused it and from where did we get it. We often consider our last meal to be the culprit. Unfortunately, unless we have similar symptoms to someone who has been sick or who has shared a meal with us, we may never truly know the what, when, where, or how of a foodborne illness. We can, however, be proactive and protect ourselves from pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses. This can be especially important during the holiday season.

The holidays are known for the gathering of family and friends. We often attend more parties, dinners and get-togethers than normal, which means we increase our likelihood of exposure to certain bacteria and viruses. The handling of food and crowded spaces create ample opportunities for the growth of pathogens and the spread of foodborne illnesses.

While we don’t like to think about foodborne illnesses until we are actually sick, taking time in advance to review food safety practices can mean the difference between spreading holiday cheer and spreading foodborne illness. The Clemson Extension Food Safety and Nutrition team wants everyone to have a fun and healthy holiday season. In the latest installment of the Food Safety for Reel video series, “Holiday Food Safety,” we highlight some of the following precautionary measures to take during the holiday season.

Double-Dipping – Double-dipping is known to spread illness. Just one bite of food or lick of a finger when passing food can transfer enough bacteria to make someone else sick.

Pets at the table – Pets at the table or near any food contact surface can spread unwanted bacteria. Just think about the places pets walk and the surfaces they lick.

Sick people – Those who are sick are also carrying bacteria. These bacteria can easily spread when hands are not washed thoroughly, or by sneezing followed by touching a food contact surface that are then touched by others.

So remember to avoid double-dipping, to keep pets away from food contact surfaces, to wash hands with hot soapy water for at least 20 seconds, and to stay away from the party or take the necessary precautions if you are sick. We don’t want to see anyone’s family holiday ruined by a foodborne illness!


Watch Clemson’s “Holidays, Hand-Washing and Hygiene” video

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