Get Healthy: This Thanksgiving, prevent illnesses while cooking

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

Tomorrow 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 have some tips for safe food preparation and storage that you can use in your home kitchen this holiday season.

Clean: Keep kitchen bacteria levels down by regularly cleaning hands, cutting boards, knives and countertops. “The most important thing you can do to stop the spread of germs is to wash your hands,” said epidemiologist Dustin Boothe. Cooks and kitchen helpers should wash hands and all kitchen utensils and surfaces between food items to stop the spread of bacteria from one food to another.

Separate: Bacteria spread through cross-contamination, so never put ready-to-eat foods on any surface where raw meat, poultry, seafood or their juices have been. Using the same cutting utensil without cleaning it can cross-contaminate foods and lead to foodborne illness.

Cook: Heating to proper temperatures is important to ensure that any bacteria in raw foods — especially meats — are killed during the cooking process. You can’t tell if something is cooked safety by how it looks, so make sure by using a food thermometer.

Chill: Refrigerate or freeze leftover food promptly (within two hours is best). 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.


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