Proper Food Preparation Will Prevent Holiday Trouble

Thanksgiving dinner brings people together, but if prepared improperly, the onset of foodborne illness can tear them apart. So the Department of Health and Human Services, along with its Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are reminding everyone involved with preparing today's feast that proper food handling should be as much a part of the holiday as the turkey and stuffing.

In order to minimize these risk, there are four steps everyone should follow:

  • Wash hands and food-contact surfaces often. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges, and counter tops.
  • Don't cross-contaminate. Don't let bacteria spread from one food product to another. This is especially true for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Experts caution to keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook to proper temperatures. Foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
  • Refrigerate promptly. Public health officials advise consumers to refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees F and the freezer at 0 degrees F, and the accuracy of the settings should be checked occasionally with a thermometer.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service virtual food safety representative, Ask Karen, available 24/7 at www.AskKaren.gov, can answer any safety concerns involving food safety, such as the proper cooking time and temperature for a turkey.

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