The last thing any host or hostess wants is for them or their guests' most memorable moment to be getting food poisoning because they made a mistake preparing the meal.

To prevent that from happening, The Mesa County Health Department assembled a list of the most common mistakes people make preparing food.

  • Not rinsing fruit and vegetables before eating. The biggest mistake is thinking you don't have to clean fruits and vegetables you are going to peel. The process of peeling transfers bacteria on the outside to the inside. This applies to everything, even watermelon where you only eat what isn't part of the rind.
  • Thawing meat on the counter. As the meat thaws, bacteria grows. The closer meat gets to room temperature, the faster bacteria grow. The safest way to thaw meat is in the refrigerator, microwave or with cold water.
  • Rinsing raw poultry to wash off bacteria. Unlike fruit, rinsing poultry doesn't get rid of bacteria, it spreads it to your sink, counter and anything else the water and bird  is in contact with.
  • Assuming meat is fully cooked because it looks done. The only way to determine if any kind of meat has reached a temperature high enough to kill bacteria is to test the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. Ask any professional chef and they will tell you a thermometer is one of their essential tools.
  • Eating leftovers because they don't look or smell spoiled. Bacteria on food often doesn't have a taste or smell so it's best to learn the proper amount of time leftovers can be in the refrigerator and still be safe to eat. If you're not sure, it's better to throw it out than risk food poisoning.

A lot of people cook and entertain more during the holidays making it more likely they will make one or more of these mistakes.

Avoiding these mistakes may mean more advance planning. For instance, thawing a turkey for a holiday meal in the refrigerator takes a lot longer than just setting it out on the counter.

The peace of mind knowing you, your family, and guests won't get sick from your meal, is worth the extra time and effort.