Health professionals are reminding people to extra care this Thanksgiving to make sure no one gets sick due to unhealthy food preparation and storage.
“Don’t cook if you’re sick,” said Lewis and Clark Public Health Environmental Health Specialist Laurel Riek. “Many illnesses can be easily spread through food. You don’t want to get your guests sick.”
Raw meat should be stored in a separate location from your ready to eat food like vegetables, even as you’re buying it in the store. People should also plan for 24 hours of thawing in the refrigerator for every four-to-five pounds the turkey weighs.
When storing your Turkey in the refrigerator, make sure it’s not able to drip onto any other food by placing it in a container.
Turkey can also be thawed quicker by submerging the bird in cold water in the original packaging. It takes 30 minutes per pound to thaw, and people replace the water every half hour.
People should wash their hands, surfaces and utensils with soap and water before the begin work on their meal.
Any surface the raw meat comes in contact with needs to thoroughly sanitized. Using a half capful of bleach to a one gallon of water solution is recommended.
The temperature of the turkey needs to be at least 165 degrees as measured by a thermometer in multiple places on the bird. Stuffing in the bird should also be heated to above 165 degrees.
“When you stuff your bird, you have to do it right before it goes into the oven,” said Reik. “You never want to put hot stuffing in the bird and then put it in the refrigerator overnight. That gives an opportunity for bacteria to grow while it’s in there because it’s still hot and it’s insulated.”
Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. Additionally, any refrigerated turkey should be consumed within 4 days or frozen.
“Keep your hands clean, cook to the right temperature, cool it quickly, reheat it properly to 165 degrees and you’ve gone a long way to protecting your family,” said Riek.