Keep your Thanksgiving dinner safe

Start the holiday season safely by following clean, separate, cook and chill guidelines.

For most, winter holidays begin with the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The non-profit organization Partnership for Food Safety Education is offering consumers, educators, chefs and more creative tools and messages to frame food safety throughout the flow of food prep. The Partnership for Food Safety Education has launched a campaign entitled The Story of Your Dinner” encouraging home cooks to utilize simple food safety tips when preparing food in their kitchens.  The campaign has something for everyone, videos, recipes, food safety tips and activity sheets for the kids.

Begin with the basics:  Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

Keep a Clean Scene

  • Frequent cleaning and sanitizing keep bacteria and viruses from spreading.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables under clean running tap water just before eating or cooking.
  • Wash hands with warm, running water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Do not wash your poultry before cooking it; this can contaminate your kitchen area and create an issue for cross-contamination. Cooking the poultry to the proper temperature (165 degrees Fahrenheit) will eliminate any bad bacteria.


  • Prevent cross-contamination by separating raw meat, poultry and fish from foods that won’t be cooked (salads, vegetables, breads).


  • Utilize a meat thermometer or instant read thermometer to determine doneness of your food items. Don’t rely on color, or guessing, this could put you and your family at risk.


  • Bacteria multiply quickly between 40 F and 140 F (temperature danger zone). Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours (set a timer). If the fridge is full, plan on some coolers and extra ice to get things cooled down quickly.

Handle your turkey with care and allow for plenty of fridge or freezer space. Plan plenty of thaw time, never thaw at room temperature, utilize cold running water or the refrigerator for safe thawing. Remember to cook your bird to 165 F, and if you must stuff, the stuffing has to reach an internal temperature of 165 F as well.

Michigan State University Extension suggests that you use your holiday leftovers up within a 3-4 day time frame. If you have more than you can consume in this time frame, freeze the leftovers and use them up within 3-4 months. Any leftovers that are reheated, should be reheated to 165 F.

Learn more about food safety by following MSU Extension’s food safety articles. Keep you and your loved ones safe this holiday season.

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