OSWEGO COUNTY – Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the things we are most thankful for and enjoy a delicious meal with loved ones. Some take the lead for meal preparation while others share the responsibility. No matter how your meal comes together, everyone must work together to prevent foodborne illness.
“Food safety risks come with large meals, so when preparing a large Thanksgiving dinner, keep food safety in mind,” said Diane Oldenburg, senior public health educator with the Oswego County Health Department. “Washing hands properly, keeping raw turkey away from other ingredients, cooking turkey to a safe internal temperature of 165°F and promptly refrigerating all leftovers within two hours after mealtime are all ways to keep our meal safe.”
Follow these tips from USDA to ensure a food-safe meal this Thanksgiving:
• Wash your hands. The first step to safe food preparation is always handwashing. This reduces the risk of foodborne illness such as hepatitis A and noroviruses, and is especially important after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and egg products.
• To wash your hands properly and keep your loved ones safe, start by wetting your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds or hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. Rinse your hands well under clean running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel and use the towel to turn off the faucet.
• Prevent cross-contamination. Turkeys can be large and hard to handle, which makes the risk of cross-contamination higher during Thanksgiving meal preparation. Turkeys may contain salmonella and campylobacter, common germs that can cause foodborne illness. A recent study found that 60% of sinks were contaminated after handling raw poultry in the sink. If you handle your turkey in the sink, be sure to fully clean and sanitize your sink and other surfaces afterward and before prepping any other Thanksgiving sides and dishes.
• To clean surfaces, wash them with soap and warm water to remove dirt and debris. Then use a solution of chlorine bleach or another household disinfectant to sanitize. Sanitizing will reduce the number of bacteria present on a surface and ultimately leave your sinks, counters, and other surfaces safe from harmful bacteria.
• Cook the turkey to 165°F. The only way to kill bacteria is to fully cook your turkey and any other dishes with raw meat, poultry, or egg products. They must be cooked to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. To properly take the internal temperature of your turkey, test it in three areas: the thickest part of the breast, and the innermost parts of the wing and the thigh. Once all three locations reach 165°F, the turkey is safe to eat. If one of those locations does not register at 165°F, then continue cooking until all three locations reach the correct internal temperature.
• Follow the two-hour rule. It’s tempting to go back for seconds, or even thirds, but perishable foods are only safe out on the table or buffet for two hours. After that time, food will be in the danger zone where food temperatures range between 40 and 140°F and bacteria can rapidly multiply, causing the food to become unsafe. Make sure all leftovers are placed in the refrigerator within two hours to safely enjoy them later. Put them in small, shallow containers. If foods have been left out for more than two hours, they should be discarded.
For questions about food safety this Thanksgiving, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you need help on Thanksgiving Day, the Meat and Poultry Hotline is available from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. You can also visit FoodSafety.gov to learn more about how to safely select, thaw and prepare a turkey.
“Remember this holiday season that practicing everyday health habits like covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, good handwashing, avoid touching your face, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and staying home when you are sick will help keep everyone away from food-borne diseases like hepatitis A and air-borne diseases like flu,” stated Jiancheng Huang, director of public health for Oswego County.
For more information on staying healthy this season, contact the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3587.