Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | November 17, 2020

Food Safety Tips for Your Thanksgiving Meal

In this unprecedented time, Thanksgiving will be different for many this year. The Centers for Disease Control has tips on how to safely celebrate Thanksgiving this year. However you observe the season, follow these food safety tips to ensure a delicious and happy Thanksgiving.

Cook your turkey (and the stuffing inside) to 165°F. Raw meat and leftovers need to reach a safe temperature to ensure heat-resistant bacteria (like salmonella) are destroyed. Food thermometers are the best way to determine if you have cooked your dish thoroughly. The chart below shows temperature requirements that ensure safe food preparation.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Safe Cooking Temperatures. Accessed November 6, 2020

Don’t wash your turkey. Although you may think you are being safe by washing your turkey, it actually may increase your risk of exposure to bacteria, which can spread to other surfaces and food items if they come in contact with the meat or the contaminated water. This can increase your chances of contracting a foodborne illness. Be sure to properly wash and disinfect any tools and surfaces that come in contact with raw meats.

Change your cutting boards often. Every time you start cutting a new food, thoroughly wash or switch to a clean cutting board to prevent cross contamination. This is especially true when cutting raw or cooked meat, and common food allergens like wheat, soy, dairy products, nuts and shellfish. Make sure you wash your hands frequently, too! 

Be mindful of how long your holiday feast sits unrefrigerated. Food left at room temperature for two or more hours is at risk for bacterial growth, which could lead to food poisoning. You can’t always tell if a food is unsafe by taste, smell, or appearance alone. Safely-refrigerated leftovers can be reheated and enjoyed for up to four days after the meal, if it doesn’t get eaten before then. 

This piece was written by Claire MacNaughton, a Meredith College student who is completing a dietetic internship at Duke Raleigh Hospital, and her Meredith College co-authors Carley Lester and Katelyn Trumble.

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