The U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture (USDA) is encouraging safe food handling practices this Thanksgiving holiday. Although Thanksgiving Day may be a bit different this year in light of the pandemic, food safety always remains a critical consideration. USDA has produced a helpful checklist of healthy protocols to adhere to.
“Our data shows that consumers can reduce their likelihood of foodborne illness by focusing on good hand hygiene and other food safety practices,” USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety, Dr. Mindy Brashears said in a press release. “As home chefs nationwide prepare their Thanksgiving meals, proper handwashing and avoiding cross contamination in the kitchen are critical to keeping your loved ones safe.”
Safe food handling all begins with handwashing. Participants in a USDA research project did not adequately wash their hands while preparing their meal about 95 percent of the time. Sufficient handwashing and sanitizing are key practices in preventing the spread of germs. Cleaning and sanitizing are also vital for avoiding cross-contamination. It is important to clean all sinks, cutting boards, and counter tops with soap and hot water before sanitizing them.
There are several tips to ensure safe food handling when preparing the traditional Thanksgiving turkey. When thawing a frozen turkey, USDA suggests allowing the turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. That method will typically require about 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. A cold-water bath or the microwave are also safe thawing options. Once the turkey is thawed it will need to be cooked to a safe temperature. A whole turkey will need to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. USDA encourages the use of a food thermometer even if the turkey has a pop-up temperature indicator.
The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline can provide food safety advice at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). The hotline will even be open on Thanksgiving Day between 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Food safety experts are also available to provide assistance online.