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How to avoid foodborne illnesses as you prepare your Thanksgiving feast

KOMO-TV Seattle 11/24/2022 KOMO News Staff
© Provided by KOMO-TV Seattle

The last thing that you want after you wrap up your Thanksgiving meal is an upset stomach.

Millions of Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses each year, and roughly 128,000 of them are hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The challenge with pathogens is you really can’t see, smell, or taste them," explained Karen Hunter, a food safety expert with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

To prevent getting sick, the USDA recommends people consider the four steps for food safety:

  1. Make sure your hands and surfaces have been cleaned with soap and water.
  2. Separate the turkey and raw meats from vegetables and other foods that'll be eaten right away.
  3. When cooking your turkey, check the temperature on the inner most part of the wing and thigh and the thickest part of the breast when you think it's done.
  4. After you finish eating your meal, divide your leftovers into smaller portions so they can cool more quickly.

Caption: Thanksgiving food safety

"You don’t want to put a whole turkey back into your fridge, because your fridge can’t adequately cool it down quickly," Hunter told KOMO News. "So, carving the meat off the bones, packaging it up. the same for your sides."

Hunter said it's best to do that within two hours of serving your meal.

If stuffing is on your menu, Hunter recommends cooking it in the oven in a separate container. But if you insist on stuffing it in your turkey, do it right before you put it in the oven, she said. When it's close to being done, check the center-most part of the stuffing to make sure it's 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

"I like to tell people... really the most underrated tool in your kitchen is your meat thermometer," Hunter continued. "That’s what’s really going to help you feel confident in what you’re preparing – that it is safe for your family."

She said foodborne illnesses often goes unreported. If you're having stomach issues and feel unwell this holiday, it might be best to take a trip to the doctor.

If you have a question about meat, poultry, or egg products as you prepare your Thanksgiving feast, you can call the USDA's Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MP-HOTLINE (1-888-674-6854). It's available from 5 a.m. - 11 a.m. PT on Thanksgiving.

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