Be thankful for food safety this Thanksgiving

Keep your foods safe during the holidays this year.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful American holiday, with friends and family getting together for food and festivities. It is also a time for traditional family recipes, some of which may be challenging to follow with today’s food safety research.

Thawing the turkey is the first thing to focus on. Take your frozen turkey out of the freezer about three days before Thanksgiving and let it thaw in your refrigerator. If you have limited time or space, you can also thaw it in your clean sink, under cold running water. It is not safe to thaw the bird on your countertop! That only leaves your bird open to bacteria growth.

Next on the menu is stuffing. Are you using your great-grandma’s recipe? Does it contain meat? Is there a possibility of cross-contamination? Do you stuff the bird or cook it in its own casserole dish? Research shows that it is safer to cook your stuffing outside of the bird. While in the bird, it is exposed to meat juices and can become tainted by cross-contamination.

It is also important to cook your turkey to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. When the turkey is cooked to temperature, let it rest for about 20 minutes. If you do stuff the bird, take the stuffing out of the bird to serve. Put all leftovers into shallow containers and place in the refrigerator as soon as possible to avoid bacterial growth.

Are relishes on the dinner menu? Make sure to use a clean and sanitized cutting board to prepare the celery, carrots and broccoli. Better yet, use one that is reserved just for vegetables! Relishes can become cross-contaminated if they are cut on an unsanitary board that has meat juices on it.

What about dessert? Is it grandma’s pumpkin pie with whipped cream and/or ice cream? Make sure everything that needs to be chilled stays that way during preparation, and that you refrigerate pies after cutting to prevent bacterial growth (if there are leftovers).

I can’t think of anything worse than having family and friends over for a day of food, football and fun and hearing that many got the “stomach flu” a few hours or days later. Michigan State University Extension recommends following these four easy rules for keeping food safe this Thanksgiving:

  1. Clean – hands, food preparation surfaces, ovens and refrigerators
  2. Separate – keep meats and raw foods like vegetables and fruits separated to avoid cross-contamination
  3. Chill – take care of leftovers quickly, making sure the temperature in your refrigerator is under 40 degrees Fahrenheit
  4. Cook – Use a food thermometer to ensure you cook to the correct temperature

If you would like more information about food safety, contact your local MSU Extension office or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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