News Releases

Health Department Thanksgiving Food Safety Tips

Nov 19, 2018

As Cumberland County residents prepare to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the Public Health Department’s Environmental Health section wants to ensure that your parties, family dinners and other gatherings where food is served are both cheerful and safe.

Here are a few tips and tricks to keep the merriment flowing while preventing illness:

Clean – The first rule of safe food preparation in the home is to keep everything clean.

  • Make sure to wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling any food.
  • Wash any surfaces that come into contact with food with hot soapy water after preparation of that item.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables under cool running water.
  • Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking.

Separate – Don’t give bacteria the opportunity to spread from one food to another.

  • Keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood and their juices away from foods that won't be cooked.
  • Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked (such as raw meat, poultry, and seafood) and another one for those that will not (such as raw fruits and vegetables).
  • Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood—and from kitchen utensils used for those products.
  • Do not put cooked meat or other food that is ready to eat on an unwashed plate that has held any raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices.

Cook – Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria.

  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. To check a turkey for safety, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165ºF. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should be 165ºF.
  • Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.
  • Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. When making your own eggnog or other recipe calling for raw eggs, use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products, or powdered egg whites.
  • Don't eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs. 

Chill – Refrigerate foods quickly because harmful bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature.

  • Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods—and any type of food that should be refrigerated—within two hours.
  • Set your refrigerator at or below 40ºF and the freezer at 0ºF.
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Food can be defrosted safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
  • Allow the correct amount of time to properly thaw food. For example, a 20-pound turkey needs four to five days to thaw completely when thawed in the refrigerator.
  • Don't taste food that looks or smells questionable.           

Follow these tips, and you are sure to have a safe and food-filled Thanksgiving holiday.