USDA issues food safety tips ahead of Thanksgiving holiday

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FILE – This Nov. 2, 2009, file photo shows a Thanksgiving turkey in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe, File)

Turkey Day is approaching, and the U.S. wants to make sure cooks across the country stay safe as they prepare the big meal.

According to the CDC, foodborne illness kills 3,000 Americans each year, and holiday gatherings can be susceptible to bacteria that cause foodborne illness due to turkey and roasts not being properly prepared and side dishes often being left out for long periods of time.

Here are the USDA’s top tips to ensure a food safe meal throughout the holidays:  

  • Wash your hands: Handwashing reduces the risk of all illness – including foodborne illness – and is especially important after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and egg products. In a recent USDA study, participants shockingly failed to wash their hands sufficiently nearly 100 percent of the time.
  • Prevent cross-contamination: When shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood in separate plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. Always remember to use a separate cutting board for fresh fruits and vegetables and for raw meats, raw poultry and raw seafood. Turkeys, hams and other roasts should not be washed prior to cooking. A recent USDA study found that a quarter of side dishes were contaminated with germs from chicken after individuals washed or rinsed raw poultry. For this reason, after handling turkey or other roasts, sanitize your hands and clean your sink and other surfaces that may have come in contact with that roast before prepping any other holiday dishes.
  • Use a food thermometer: The only way to kill bacteria is to fully cook dishes with raw meat, poultry, or egg products. For poultry, that means 165°F, and roasts should be cooked to 145°F with a three-minute rest time.
  • Practice safe food storage and follow the two-hour rule: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Keep food hot (at 140°F or above) in a slow cooker or chafing dish and keep cold foods cold (at 40°F or below) by placing salads and dips in a tray of ice. Perishable foods are only safe out on the table or buffet for two hours. Make sure all leftovers are placed in the refrigerator within two hours to safely enjoy them later.

For more safety information, click HERE.

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