Safe Stocking Stuffer Ideas

— Written By Janice Fields and last updated by

At this time of year, most of us are busy preparing/attending holiday events, making/buying the perfect gifts for family and friends, decorating, and cooking/baking/freezing our favorite holiday foods. This is the one time of year we are making our lists and checking them twice.

I have a few last-minute ideas for stocking stuffers that will help keep your loved ones safe throughout the year. Tip-sensitive digital thermometers, refrigerator thermometers, a variety of cutting boards, dish soap, dishcloths or sponges, and kitchen sanitizer all make wonderful stocking stuffers. Remember these items for your kitchen too. Stock up and use these items to keep your family and friends safe at all your holiday food events and throughout the year.

We all want to avoid getting sick from the food we eat, and we definitely don’t want to be the preparer of the food that makes others sick. Children under the age of five, pregnant women, older adults, and all of our family/friends with weakened immune systems are most at risk when we cross-contaminate raw food with ready-to-eat food or hold food at the wrong temperatures. These special loved ones can eat the same contaminated food as the average person and have much more severe consequences. Here are a few explanations of why this is so:

  • Children under the age of five are still developing their immune systems. Their bodies are small and get dehydrated quickly. They produce less stomach acid, which helps kill harmful bacteria.
  • During pregnancy, a woman’s immune system is reduced, increasing the risk of food-borne illness for her and her unborn baby. Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get an infection from listeria than others! Her unborn baby can get listeria even if she does not feel sick.
  • It’s not news that our organs and body systems change as we age. I’m already feeling it! Just like young children, those over the age of 65 may produce less stomach acid. Our liver and kidneys may not get rid of toxins and bacteria as efficiently. We may also hold food in our intestinal tract a little longer, giving bacteria more time to grow.
  • Some of our family and friends have weakened immune systems from conditions like diabetes, liver or kidney disease, HIV, and chemotherapy/radiation for cancer. More so than a pregnant woman, people on dialysis are 50 times more likely to get a listeria infection!

For these reasons, we should all take extra care when we serve food. When you think about it now, aren’t those stocking stuffer ideas perfect for all of your cooks? Now go ahead, get out there, and buy those tip-sensitive digital thermometers, fridge thermometers, cutting boards, dish soap, and dishcloths. Have a wonderful, food-safe holiday!

For more information, please contact Janice Fields, Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by email at, or visit our website.

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