This Valentine’s Day, we love food safety — you can too

Valentine’s Day seems to be a bigger deal every year, as the lovestruck event planners of the world devise more and more ways to celebrate affection — both romantic and platonic. We’ve got Galentine’s Day lunches, Valenguys Day dinners, Palentine’s Day parties and more. At the center of them all: delicious food.

With food comes the risk of foodborne illness. Here are some things to keep in mind, for the sake of food safety.

Be bold about your allergies. Whether you’re dining in or out with a new date or loved ones you’ve known for years, don’t be afraid to speak up about your food allergies. Let dates know not to get you a gift containing your allergen, and make sure the restaurant you dine at has you-friendly entrees. For a milk allergy, be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found that many dark chocolates not labeled as containing milk actually did. Ask your romantic partner to avoid certain foods if you think they’ll go in for the kiss — allergens can remain in the mouth for up to four hours.

Hot and cold. A common food safety mantra: “Keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold.” This includes cooking food to a hot enough internal temperature that will kill any foodborne bacteria that might make you sick. Foodsafety.gov has a helpful chart detailing the temperatures appropriate for every kind of meat you can think of; find it here. Baked goods should be cooked to at least 160°F. Remember that bacteria grows quickly between 40°F and 140°F, so keep cold food below that range and store all leftovers quickly (within two hours) in your fridge. Following these guidelines will keep your home-cooked meals romantic, and not tainted by the memory of the next day’s food poisoning symptoms.

Fancy food risks. Valentine’s Day is a good occasion for some “fancy” food, different from what you eat day-to-day, but be aware of meals that are more likely to make you sick. Raw oysters are a special treat, but consuming raw oysters is associated with a higher risk of getting vibriosis (a foodborne illness caused by Vibrio vulnificus) and norovirus infection. If you indulge in oysters, make sure they’ve been cooked to at least 194°F for at least 90 seconds. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also notes some special-occasion foods that might contain undercooked eggs, which come with a higher Salmonella risk: Hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, cold mousses, ice cream, meringue and tiramisu.

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