For Immediate Release: November 21, 2007
Contact: Communication Office
BURLINGTON - The Department of Health is once again reminding Vermonters over the holidays to use proper food safety and handling precautions during Thanksgiving.
Following some basic rules for proper storage, temperature control and cleanliness can prevent foodborne illness, which can quickly turn a holiday break into a bust.
"Wash hands, wipe down counter tops, use clean utensils, thaw the food properly, and try to store leftovers in air-tight packaging," said Cort Lohff, MD, state epidemiologist for the Vermont Department of Health.
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that people follow four basic steps to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses: clean, separate, cook and chill.
- Wash your hands in warm, soapy water before and after handling any food, using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets.
- Bacteria can live in towels, sponges, and dish cloths. Wash them often and replace sponges every few weeks.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and their juices away from other food. Wash your hands, cutting board, and knife in hot soapy water after cutting the turkey and before dicing other ingredients.
- Cook all food to proper temperatures. For turkeys, cook until the meat thermometer reads 180°F in the thigh, 170°F in breast pieces, and 165°F in the stuffing. Re-heat leftovers to 165°F or until they are hot and steaming.
- Refrigerate all foods. Don't leave leftovers out for more than two hours. Place leftovers in shallow storage containers to refrigerate or freeze. After cooking, remove stuffing from poultry or other meat and refrigerate stuffing and meat separately.
Never defrost food at room temperature. Defrosting turkeys and other large, frozen meats is challenging for cooks. To defrost in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours for each 5 lbs. of meat. Be sure to place a plate or container under the meat while it is defrosting so that the juices won't contaminate other food. To use cold water to defrost, keep the meat in its unopened wrapper and cover with cold water in a container or sink. Change the water every 30 minutes to keep the surface cold. The estimated thawing time is 30 minutes per 1 lb. of meat.
Following these steps can keep your food safe from contamination and make for a healthy and happy holiday.
For more information on safe food handling visit the Vermont Department of Health website at healthvermont.gov.