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Food safety expert dishes out tips for holiday baking

With the holiday season in full swing, Elizabeth Demmings, a food safety expert with the Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University, offers the following guidance for preparing holiday foods safely. Additional advice from Demmings can be found here.

Demmings says:

Given COVID-19, is it safe to bake for others?

“While there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through food, it is still important to mitigate any potential risks. First and foremost, if you are sick with COVID-19 or any other illness do not proceed to prepare foods for friends, neighbors or family.

“The biggest food safety asset bakers have on their side is the ‘kill step’ that occurs when cookies are baked in the oven as it destroys any harmful microorganisms. The key here is following the proper baking instructions in the recipe.

“Also make sure to wash your hands frequently. I recommend doing so particularly before preparing a recipe, after handling raw ingredients and dough and before handling baked cookies. It’s also important to make sure all kitchen utensils and food contact surfaces, such as counter tops and cooling racks, are clean.

Biggest mistake people make regarding food safety during the holidays:

“I consider eating raw cookie dough to be the biggest mistake people make during the holidays. In addition to Salmonella infections which can be caused by raw eggs in a mixture, uncooked flour can also cause foodborne illnesses due to contamination from pathogenic E. coli.

“Baking raw cookie dough at the appropriate temperature for the proper length of time will ensure that these harmful microorganisms are destroyed and make the cookies safe to eat.”

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