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Avoiding Food Contamination and Illness

No one wants to provide or enjoy a great meal, only to suffer food poisoning from it! The good news is there are simple steps to prevent serving tainted food. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has strategies that go beyond washing your hands for 20 seconds before, during and after meal preparation, or every time you use the bathroom, touch pet food or a pet, or after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. It suggests four categories to be mindful about food safety.

Keep Clean
Start and end with a clean workspace. Put away all clean dishes. Get ready by washing down the sink and countertops. Use clean knives and cutting boards that have been previously washed in soapy water. Designate which board and utensils will be used for meats, and do not use them for anything else. Rinse fresh fruit and vegetables under running water that you are intending to serve, even if you will be peeling them.

Separate Raw & Prepared
Keep animal products separate from other food both in your grocery cart and in the refrigerator. Have raw meat or fish stored in an additional bag so if juices leak out of their package, it will be contained in the refrigerator. Food safety experts say do NOT rinse poultry or raw meat because of the risk of contamination. The only time it is appropriate to rinse a turkey is if you have chosen to brine it, and need to rinse off the excess salt.

Its best to start the advanced meal preparation with foods that will not be cooked first. Prepare the dishes and store them in the refrigerator. Use pasteurized eggs for recipes calling for raw eggs (Caesar dressing, hollandaise sauce, tiramisu, eggnog, etc.).

Get comfortable with a food thermometer—it’s the only reliable way to determine if the food you are cooking has reached a safe internal temperature. Do not rely on a “pop up” thermometer, and if you lightly stuff your turkey, test the stuffing temperature as well. (Cooking the stuffing separately is healthier). For a complete list of safe internal food temperatures for meats, poultry, seafood, leftovers and more, visit

Keep Food at Safe Temperatures
Set your refrigerator at or below 40˚ Fahrenheit and your freezer at 0˚ Fahrenheit. Thawing a turkey in a refrigerator is ideal (24 hours for every 4-5 pounds), otherwise fill a sink with cold water, drain and refill every 30 minutes. Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate within two hours after cooking. Eat your leftovers within a few days and never keep any leftover food for more than five days.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

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