Inviting Trouble to your Holiday Meal

Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 3:51am

The Consequences of Ignoring Food Safety Guidelines

The holidays are finally here. Besides all the shopping, many of us are making plans for large family dinners. Unfortunately, that also means that we could make it possible for having uninvited guests (of the microscopic variety) show up at our table - creating some very unpleasant consequences for friends and family gathered around the table.

Here are some literally sickening guidelines on how to make these uninvited guests feel welcome (which will make sure that your invited guests will be making frequent trips to the bathroom).

• Forget everything your mother told you about washing your hands. Don't wash up before preparing food so that the nasty bacteria can and will come with you into the kitchen and move freely between raw and cooked food.

• Don't worry about keeping the plates clean. Just dump that load of steaming mashed potatoes on to the platter you were using to hold raw chicken. This will help assure a visit from that infamous Grinch named Salmonella to share in the holiday cheer. When Salmonella shows up, you won't need to worry about throwing a good party because everyone else will be busy with a variety of alternative activities such as diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and nausea.

• Go ahead and leave the turkey (or any other meat) out on the table for much more than two hours. It will provide a great demonstration of the germ theory in action. At room temperature, these microbes will happily multiply to levels high enough to make you and yours ill.

• Pay no attention to what the cookbooks say about the cooking temperatures of meats-especially when you are in a hurry. You won't need to worry about keeping your guests entertained since they will quickly depart for the closest bathroom.

We hope that you realize that this tongue in cheek approach was for a good and serious cause. With all the pressure of holiday preparations, it is easy to let your guard down sometimes and make the kind of food safety mistakes that we have so oddly illustrated above. Food safety is serious business because ignoring it can really ruin your holidays.

So please be careful and enjoy all the celebrations of the holiday season.

There is a lot more information on foodborne illness and food safety which can be found at

For details on food poisoning, see


Public Health Madison & Dane County


  • Jeff Golden(608) 243-0302