As we approach the end of the year, there are still lots of meals and party foods to prepare. Food taken from one home to another and sharing potluck dishes increases the risk for bacteria to overgrow and cause food poisoning. Here are some tips from myself and the USFDA on how you can protect yourself, your friends and family from the risk of foodborne illness this holiday season: 1. When shopping, keep the raw meat, poultry and seafood away from other foods in the grocery cart. Buy the cold foods last. Either bag the raw meats, etc. separately, or ask the cashier to do so for you. 2. When preparing food items, use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready-to-eat items such as vegetables and breads. Keep food preparation with raw meat separate from uncooked recipes to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Keep dishes stored away from any item with blood which could drip or contaminate another item. Use a meat thermometer to check that meats are cooked thoroughly. 3. When cooking for large groups, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold by using chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items need to be above 60 C or 140 F, and cold items should be at or below 4 C or 40 F. Use smaller platters when serving foods. Discard perishable items left out for two hours or more. Last of all, remember that all cuts of pork, beef, veal and lamb need a 3 minute rest time before cutting or consuming. Also, don’t forget to wash your hands frequently throughout your food preparation. With all these tips in mind, your menu items will be served safely without the risk of foodborne illness.