Thanksgiving Day Food Safety Tips: Avoid Food Poisoning


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Practice safe food handling with all Thanksgiving dishes! Photo by Andrew Storms

It’s that time of year again! Families have planned their menus, and the anticipation of a Thanksgiving Day feast is on many people’s minds. Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy good food with friends and family – it’s not a time to have to worry about getting food poisoning!

To ensure that a good meal is had by all, and that guests leave the dinner table with aching bellies because they are stuffed with good food, and not because of food poisoning – here are four tips to a healthy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Food Prep Safety: Wash Up!

Before you start pulling out the food and cooking utensils, do a through wipe-down of your kitchen counters – some germs and bacteria can live on surfaces up to a couple of days.

Choose a cleaner that says “disinfectant” on the label, which means that it will kill germs and bacteria when used properly. Don’t forget to read the label, some disinfectants you have to spray and leave on for a certain amount of time before you wipe it up. If you want to save a little cash this holiday season, use bleach.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (USDA), you can use one tablespoon of liquid (unscented) chlorine bleach to a gallon of water to disinfect surfaces.

After giving your kitchen a good cleaning, wash your hands before handling any food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before handling food – and don’t forget to wash your hands after handling any raw meat.

Food Safety: Don’t Cross Contaminate

As the USDA says, “Be Smart, Keep Foods Apart” is a key phrase when preparing any meal, not just Thanksgiving dinner. The USDA recommends that you have a separate cutting board for different groups of food. For example, have one cutting board designated for meat, poultry, and/or seafood and another cutting board for produce. This way, the harmful bacteria of raw meat, poultry and seafood stay away from your produce. If you only have one cutting board, wash it thoroughly with soap and water between uses. Be aware of your knife as well – don’t use the same knife (without washing with soap and water) to cut raw meat and then use it to cut up your sweet potatoes!

Turkey Dinner: Thawing Safely

Getting the turkey from the store to your Thanksgiving Day table can be quite a process, resulting in a fabulous turkey dinner for all. Unfortunately, if done incorrectly, you may end up with an uncooked turkey, which makes for some unhappy (and possibly sick) guests. The USDA recommends that you buy your fresh (not frozen) turkey only a day or two in advance. If you have a frozen turkey, you should allow 24 hours for every four pounds of turkey. If you have a large turkey, this could take a few days in the refrigerator, so do the math before you take it out of the freezer.

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