When it comes to Thanksgiving food safety, everyone knows the drill by now.
Or do they?
Experts are adding to the list of usual suspects that can put a Thanksgiving guest in the hospital with two new worries: food allergies and multi-tasking in the kitchen.
“When people are cooking Thanksgiving dinner, they’re touching raw food, they’re touching their phone and touching the doors and setting the table, and they’re not washing their hands in between,” said Erica Christ, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Greenwich Hospital.
Though Christ said she knows the holidays are a busy time and people are trying to get multiple things done at once, touching a raw turkey and handling a plate that people will eat off of later is, for lack of a better word, gross, she said.
“It’s a safety issue,” Christ said. “Imagine going to someone’s house and getting a plate that has raw poultry juice on it.”
The multi-tasking ban now joins admonishments not to undercook the turkey, leave food at room temperature for too long, wash the turkey and cook stuffing inside the turkey, all of which can turn the holidays toxic.
And experts are saying that food allergies are also becoming a red flag when planning to invite the extended family over for food and fun.
“I think it’s appropriate, and kind, to ask ahead of time if any guests have food allergies,” said Dr. Rachel Chung, attending physician with Western Connecticut Medical Group’s New Canaan Primary and Immediate Care. That way, she said, hosts can plan their meals accordingly.
Christ said inquiring about guests’ allergies is just another aspect of being a gracious host. “I think it should be part of the conversation,” she said.
Meanwhile, if someone has allergies and is attending a Thanksgiving dinner or other holiday event, Chung said, they should be prepared with an antihistimine like Benadryl and/or an epinephrine injector, if they have one.
Chung also advised asking the event’s host about whether any foods will feature allergens ahead of time, depending on how comfortable the relationship is between host and guest.
There are also a few pitfalls people with allergies should avoid at events where food is served, Chung said. For instance, baked goods often have a long list of ingredients that can’t always be immediately detected. The same is true for signature cocktails.
And, sadly, people with allergies might have to avoid kissing or shaking hands at the holidays to avoid having a reaction by touching someone who has eaten or handled an allergen, Chung said.
But while medication is the safety go-to for allergies, the solution to multi-tasking hazards seems fairly simple, Christ said: people need to be aware of what they’re doing in the kitchen. If someone has just been wrist-deep in a bird, they shouldn’t immediately yank their hand out when the phone rings and splatter germs everywhere.
“Let it go to voicemail,” Christ said.
In general, she said, slowing down and being more mindful can make for a less stressful, and safer, holiday. “We can’t be perfect,” Christ said. “But we can be clean.”