Food Safety Tips for Thanksgiving Meal Preparation Featured / Food Safety

Having a traditional turkey dinner? The holiday season is a special time for giving thanks and focusing on family and friends. But with increased celebration and social outings also comes an increased risk of food-borne illness. What are the most significant safety concerns? The most common safety issues at Thanksgiving are caused by Salmonella and Campylobacter, the bacteria associated with raw poultry. Staphylococcus aureus, which is associated with contamination of cooked products through human contact, is also commonly associated with food-borne illness around the holidays.

If you’re hosting a Thanksgiving meal for loved ones, try following these 5 easy steps to prevent food-borne illness:

  1. Thaw the frozen turkey in the refrigerator (40°F or below). Allow one day for each five pounds of turkey. Do not thaw on the kitchen counter.
  2. Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw poultry. Wash all knives, cutting boards and utensils also in between use. Use two cutting boards: one for preparing raw meat, poultry and fish, and the other for cutting cooked food or preparing salads.
  3. Cook a turkey until it has an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature. Do not slow cook a turkey overnight at low temperatures.
  4. Stuffing should not be prepared a day ahead and the turkey should not be stuffed until ready to cook. A quicker, safer method is to cook the stuffing separately in a casserole dish, using some of the pan juices to flavor and moisten the stuffing.
  5. Eat the meal as soon as it is prepared. A good rule of thumb for food safety is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. But chances are your dining room isn’t set up with restaurant-style warming trays and buffet servers. Take your time around the dinner table, but start packing up and refrigerating the leftovers within two hours. Leftovers should be cooled down as quickly as possible. Cut the meat off the bones and put it in shallow containers in the refrigerator. Reheat all leftovers to 165°F.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an entire website dedicated to food safety.  Visit Foodsafety.gov for more information.


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