Handle food properly for a healthy Thanksgiving
November 26, 2014
This column appears in the Nevada Appeal weekly. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Today 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 — want 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.
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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 any bacteria in raw foods — especially meats — are killed during the cooking process. With a large item, like a turkey, it's especially important to make sure it's cooked all the way through.
If you're stuffing your turkey, it's critical to ensure both the stuffing and the turkey reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees fahrenheit. 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 fahrenheit 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 3-4 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
For more tips on proper food storage and handling for any time of year, visit FightBac.org.
Carson City Health and Human Services
Clinic Hours: Monday-Wednesday and Friday
9 a.m. to 4 p.m., by appointment
900 East Long Street, Carson City
Well Child visits are Mondays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Men's Clinic is on Mondays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Call for an appointment: 775-887-2195
Thursday is Immunization Day − No appointment needed
8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.