(Dennison, Ohio) – The Thanksgiving meal is one of the largest meals many enjoy each year so safe food preparation and storage is critical!
Foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it affects approximately 1 in 6 Americans each year. THTC experts note symptoms of foodborne illnesses can vary depending on the type of illness and can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, chills, headache, blurred vision, dizziness, or even paralysis.
Wash Your Hands
The good news is that foodborne illnesses can be prevented! As simple as it sounds, one of the most effective ways to prevent foodborne illness is to wash your hands before, during, and after preparing foods, after touching garbage, using the restroom, changing diapers, caring for someone who is sick, or touching an animal. THTC experts explain that there is a right and a wrong way to wash your hands.
To do so correctly you use clean running water and soap, rub your hands together to form a lather and be sure to get between your fingers, the front and back of your hands and under your nails. You should rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds then rinse thoroughly and air-dry hands or dry a with a clean towel. If you’re in an area where clean running water is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Let’s Talk Turkey
When it comes to food preparation and storage, it is critical that you take the appropriate steps to ensure your guests don’t get sick! Before you even start cooking your turkey there are few things you should do, according to foodsafety.gov.
- Read labels carefully. Temperature labels show if the bird is fresh or frozen. If you plan to serve a fresh turkey, purchase it no more than two days before Thanksgiving.
- Purchase two thermometers: a refrigerator thermometer to ensure the turkey is stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly below and a food thermometer to make sure the cooked turkey reaches a safe 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Thaw the turkey by using the microwave, the cold-water method, or the refrigerator. The refrigerator method is USDA recommended.
When it’s time to cook, the safety measures continue!
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before touching any food.
- DO NOT WASH THE TURKEY. Experts note, this only spreads pathogens onto kitchen surfaces. The only way to kill bacteria that causes foodborne illness is to fully cook the turkey.
- Always keep raw turkey separated from all other foods.
- Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils when handling raw turkey to avoid cross-contamination. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm soap and water or place them in the dishwasher.
- Cook the turkey until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit by a food thermometer. Check the turkey’s temperature by inserting the thermometer in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing.
And after everyone has had their fill of your Thanksgiving turkey, there is a right way to store those leftovers!
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours to prevent bacteria from growing on the food.
- Store leftovers in shallow pans or containers to decrease cooling time. This prevents the food from spending too much time at unsafe temperatures (between 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Do not store stuffing inside a leftover turkey. Remove the stuffing from the turkey and refrigerate the stuffing and the meat separately.
- Avoid consuming leftovers that have been left in the refrigerator for longer than 3 or 4 days (next Tuesday to be exact). Use the freezer to store leftovers for longer periods of time.
- Keep leftovers in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs if the food is traveling home with a guest who lives more than two hours away.