This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Thursday is Thanksgiving, and across the United States, millions of people will sit down to enjoy a meal. For most of us, Thanksgiving represents a departure from our normal cooking habits (how often do the majority of us roast a whole turkey?) and an opportunity to fill our refrigerators with leftover turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. The environmental health specialists here at the Health Department - the same people who are responsible for restaurant inspections - wanted to pass along some tips for proper food preparation and storage for your home kitchen this holiday season.
"The most important thing you can do to stop the spread of germs is to wash your hands", says epidemiologist Dustin Boothe. "Before you start to prepare a meal, make sure you wash hands thoroughly with soap and water."
The same is true during preparation. Cooks and kitchen helpers should wash hands and all kitchen utensils and surfaces between food items to stop spreading bacteria from one food to another. Using the same cutting utensil without cleaning it can cross-contaminate foods, and lead to foodborne illness. Wash any used utensils and dishes, or better yet, get a new one for each food. Wipe down countertops as well with a clean cloth or disinfecting wipes.
Heating to proper temperatures is important to ensure that any bacteria in raw foods - especially meats - are killed during the cooking process. With a large item, like a turkey, it is especially important to make sure that it is cooked all the way through. If you are stuffing your turkey, it is critical to ensure that both the stuffing and the turkey reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Make sure you follow the instructions for cooking your turkey, and leave plenty of time to defrost and cook it thoroughly.
One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is being able to make leftover turkey sandwiches the next day, but to do this, proper cooling and storage of the food is critical. Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of your refrigerator. It should be 40 degrees or less. After you finish the meal, make sure you promptly put all food items in the refrigerator. Don't let food sit out, this can help bacteria grow. Cooked turkey can safely stay in the refrigerator for three or four days, or in the freezer for up to four months.
For more tips on proper food storage and handling for any time of year, visit FightBac.org.
Don't forget: Bring in two canned food items between now and Dec. 9 to receive a voucher for a free flu shot, redeemable any Thursday in our clinic while supplies last.
For more information about other Health Department services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or visit us at www.facebook.com/cchhs.
Carson City Health and Human Services
900 East Long St., Carson City
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday; call for appointment.
Well-child visits: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays.
Men's clinic: 4-6 p.m. Mondays; call for appointment.