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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As a culinary centerpiece, turkey will undoubtedly be the highlight of many Thanksgiving holiday meals. But when it comes to preparing poultry, health officials say there are both safe and unsafe approaches.
“Food is integral to how many people celebrate,” said Lauren Jenks, assistant secretary for environmental public health in Washington state. “Sadly, every year thousands of people across the country suffer from foodborne illnesses during the holiday season due to undercooked or stored food. This year we want to minimize that as much as possible.
According to CDC data, each year about 8 million people fall ill with foodborne illness and 128,000 are hospitalized.
To counteract these statistics and help families celebrate safely, the Washington State Department of Health has released the following food safety tips to ensure that the foods served on this holiday are properly prepared … instead of be potentially toxic.
- Safely Thaw Turkey – Turkeys can be responsibly thawed in a refrigerator or sink filled with cold water (water should be changed every 30 minutes). Never thaw a turkey by leaving it at room temperature.
- Keep raw foods separate – This is especially crucial for raw meats and seafood. Store all raw meat in sealed containers to avoid cross contamination.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold – Bacteria can grow quickly if the temperature of the food is in the “danger zone” between 40 ° F and 140 ° F. To avoid spreading germs, it is important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold when preparing meals.
- Cook food well – Undercooked chicken, turkey, seafood and eggs can cause foodborne illness. To make sure these items are cooked to a safe internal temperature, use a food thermometer.
- Do not eat raw dough – Refrain from ingesting raw dough or batter containing eggs and flour. These mixtures may contain harmful E. coli and Salmonella germs.
- Wash your hands and disinfect the cooking zones – To avoid spreading germs, wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before, during and after preparing food. Also, be sure to wash your hands after handling uncooked meat, poultry, seafood, flour or eggs, to avoid potential food poisoning. Sanitize all cooking surfaces after preparing a meal.
- Safety of leftovers – Leftovers should be refrigerated at 40 ° F or below within two hours of serving. Divide large portions of meat into smaller cuts for faster refrigeration. Leftovers should be reheated to 165 ° F or higher before reserving. Leftovers can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.