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County Health Department Offers Tips on How to Prepare Food Safely for Thanksgiving

As you begin to plan for your holiday feasts this year, Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang reminds residents to follow safe food preparation, handling, cooking, and storage practices to prevent food-borne illnesses.

Recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention investigations of outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with bacteria found in spinach, peanut butter, cantaloupes, and frozen beef patties have brought food-borne illness into the national spotlight.

“Many consumers are now more aware of the importance of food safety,” Huang suggested. “Following simple food safety rules can help prevent most food-borne illness and insure that your holiday is happy and healthy.”

Here are some tips to follow for a safe holiday season:

  • Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator at 45 degrees, not on the counter.
  • Be sure to allow 24 hours of defrosting for every five pounds of turkey.
  • Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed.
  • The safest way to cook the stuffing is separate from the turkey.
  • Stuffing placed in an uncooked turkey is susceptible to bacteria growth.
  • If you choose to cook the stuffing in the turkey, stuff it loosely for safe, even cooking, and be sure the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  • A whole turkey should reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature, even if the turkey has a “pop up” temperature indicator.
  • Do not interrupt the cooking process. This promotes bacteria growth.
  • When preparing your meal, thoroughly wash hands, cutting boards and utensils often.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from foods that won’t be cooked, to prevent cross contamination.
  • Carefully store leftovers. Store the turkey and stuffing in separate, shallow, covered containers and refrigerate at 40 degrees or below within two hours of cooking.
  • Perishable foods left at room temperature for longer than two hours should be thrown out.
  • Use leftover turkey and stuffing within four days, and gravy within two days.
  • Leftovers should be reheated to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees

For more information about safe food-handling practices, contact the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3557 or visit the New York State Department of Health’s Web site at http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/food_safety or the USDA’s Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov, or call the USDA hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (674-6854) on weekdays, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

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