Thanksgiving Food Safety Tips: Everybody knows a turkey and some…side dishes

be food prepared this Thanksgiving

be food prepared this Thanksgiving

Nat King Cole sang this verse about turkey during the holidays, but you can learn a lot from the USDA Poultry hotline about safe turkey handling and cooking. However, it’s the side dishes and daylong potluck buffet that will have you singing the blues if you don’t watch it.

Whether it’s the turkey, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, grandma’s special tamales, auntie’s sweet potato pie, uncle’s cioppino or cousin’s sticky mango rice flan, an all-day buffet has the potential for not only weight gain but foodborne illness. While we can’t control what is brought or how the food was made to a potluck meal, we can be watchful of situations that can spread the growth of pathogens or toxins released by bacteria – agents that can make you miss your Friday shopping adventure.

Here are a few definitions about food:

  • Potentially hazardous food: foods that require temperature control to limit sickness causing bacteria or toxin formation by the bacteria
  • Danger Zone: temperature of potentially hazardous food (41-135°F) that will support and encourage growth of bacteria and their waste products (toxins).
  • Toxins: sometimes a waste product by bacteria that can be heat stable and not made safe by merely reheating.

Here are a few tips for your Thanksgiving potluck:

  1. Keep potentially hazardous foods out of the danger zone (41-135°F) by using chafing dishes to keep hot (+135°F), or iced bowls to keep cold (-41°F) (examples include: potato salad, gravy)
    • Keep these foods no more than 2 hours out of danger zone.
  2. Cover foods on the serving table whenever possible.
  3. Refrigerate potentially hazardous food in shallow containers to cool rapidly when not serving.
  4. Reheat leftovers quickly and thoroughly to 165°F.
  5. Don’t let little cousin play with the buffet food.
  6. Wash your hands thoroughly before returning to a food area, especially after using the restroom, smoking, changing a diaper, etc…
  7. If you overeat, it may not be the pathogens that get you!

For more information about turkey cooking, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). On Thanksgiving Day, the Hotline will be open from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm Eastern Time or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov. Ask Karen, the virtual food safety representative, is available 24/7. Weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST.

Happy Gobble Gobble!

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