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5 simple, but important Thanksgiving food safety tips

Keep your Thanksgiving enjoyable by following these safety tips related to food handling and cooking your turkey.

Today's guest bloggers are Nisha Parikh and Joseph Roselli, PharmD Candidates from the. University of the Sciences.

November is finally here. It is time to clear your yard of scarecrows and carved pumpkins, and start thinking about your Thanksgiving plans! A time to reflect on what you are thankful for and to enjoy a delicious meal with family and friends! However, while preparing holiday goodies can be fun, it is easy to forget about the safety precautions we must all take.

Every year, nearly 48 million people in the United States - one in six - get sick from eating food contaminated with germs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that listeriosis, a serious infection usually caused by eating foods contaminated with the bacterium listeria monocytogenes, causes about 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths in the United States annually! Now before you all get worried, what should you do?

Read these useful tips, learn a thing or two about why safe handling is important, and make your Thanksgiving enjoyable and safe!

1. Keep home refrigerator at or below 40o F as measured with a thermometer.

2. When storing food, completely cover and securely wrap food in the refrigerator; make sure to consume or freeze refrigerated leftovers within three to four days.

3. When thawing food, including turkey, plan ahead and thaw/marinate foods in the refrigerator to guarantee the safest results.

4. Regularly clean the inner walls and shelves of your refrigerator, sanitizing the surfaces and bins using a spray solution of one tablespoon liquid chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water.

5. Wash your hands and surfaces (including cutting boards) when handling different types of foods to avoid cross contamination.

In addition, we've answered some commonly asked questions about safely handling turkeys below:

Q: How long is a turkey safe to eat after it is cooked?
A turkey should be eaten within four days (if stored in the fridge) and within four months (if frozen).

How long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey in the fridge?
A good rule of thumb to remember is that a turkey takes about 24 hours to thaw for every five pounds the turkey weighs. This means that a 20 lbs. turkey should sit in the fridge for at least four days.

If I stuff my turkey, how hot should the stuffing be in order to make sure it is safely cooked?
While it is recommended to cook stuffing outside of the bird, if this is the tradition in your family it is important to remember that the center of the stuffing should reach a temperature of approximately 165o F to know it has been properly cooked.

Who are these tips and recommendations for?
These tips are for everyone! However, those at higher risk for acquiring food-borne illnesses include younger children, adults ages 75 or older, and pregnant women.

Let us all be thankful for preparing a delicious and safe Thanksgiving feast this year! For more information, check out the Partnership for Food Safety Education, read the Autumn Poison Safety column at the American Association of Poison Control Centers, or call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

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