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Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful, to be with family and friends and to enjoy good food.
A Vanderbilt dietitian says that making sure the food you serve is prepared and stored properly can ensure that everyone has a safe and healthy experience.
“Nobody is thankful about food that ends up making them sick,” says Vanderbilt University Medical Center dietitian and certified personal trainer Jessica Bennett. “But with some simple steps, foodborne illness can be kept away from the Thanksgiving table.”
Ten Tips for Safe Thanksgiving Meals:
1. Turkey should be thawed properly in the refrigerator, 24 hours for every five pounds. Don’t thaw the turkey on the counter or outdoors, and avoid placing it where juices could drip on other foods.
2. It is safer to cook stuffing in its own dish outside of the turkey. If you are going to use it to stuff the turkey, make sure it is heated to at least 165 degrees F.
3. In general, all raw meats should be kept separated from foods that are not cooked, such as raw fruits and vegetables, and all fruits and vegetables should be washed with cool water.
4. Use a dedicated cutting board for meats to avoid cross contamination, and be sure to wash utensils and cutting boards well.
5. Wash hands before and after handling food to avoid cross contamination. Make sure any kitchen helpers wash their hands too.
6. Before serving, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
7. Store leftovers within two hours. Stay away from the temperature danger zone: Bacteria grow quickly between 40 and 140 degrees F.
8. If traveling, also remember to keep foods outside the temperature danger zone. Don’t overload coolers, and make sure ice is around the food.
9. When you arrive at your destination, be sure to reheat food to 165 degrees F. before serving. That also goes for leftovers at home.
10. Eat leftovers within 3-4 days, and reheat them to at least 165 degrees F. When in doubt throw it out. Smelling food does not determine safety because spoiled food doesn’t always smell bad.