December 17, 2017

9 Thanksgiving food tips: Don’t let stomach bugs ruin your holiday feast

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By Emily Netburn From Newsmax

When preparing for a big Thanksgiving feast, the last thing on your mind is whether or not the food you’re about to eat could make you sick. Yet every year, 48 million Americans are sickened by foodborne illnesses, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.

Before eating the biggest meal of the year, experts say it’s a good idea to educate yourself on food poisoning and how to ensure the holiday meal that you’ve slaved over won’t make you, your family, or guests sick.

, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness, tells that a variety of pathogens in food can cause serious illnesses, including E. Coli, salmonella, norovirus, and others.

“The consequences of foodborne illness can range from just a small stomachache to death,” Schlunegger says. “Children, elderly people, and those with compromised immune systems are the most at risk for foodborne illnesses.”

The good news is that, with a little planning and preparation, you can avoid many of the cause of food poisoning. Here are nine things Schlunegger and other experts recommend to help you stay safe this holiday season:

It all starts at the grocery store. Buying the right meat is just as important as cooking it correctly. If you’re shopping for the meal more than two days in advance, it’s a good idea to buy a frozen to avoid spoilage. If you prefer a fresh , you should purchase it within two days of the Thanksgiving meal.

Paper or plastic? “Any chicken or turkey could be contaminated” with salmonella or other pathogens, Schlunegger explains. Because of this, it is important to separate your raw poultry, seafood, and meat from the rest of your groceries, when bagging them in the supermarket. Schlunegger recommends using separate plastic bags for your raw ingredients so that juices from, say, chicken or turkey, don’t contaminate fruits or vegetables.

Don’t leave food in the car for long. Leaving your groceries in the car while you do some early shopping may sound tempting, but it’s actually more hazardous than you might imagine. If you leave your food in the trunk for too long, it can spoil or allow dangerous microorganisms to grow and spread.

Defrost with care. The three safest ways to defrost a turkey are in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in a microwave. Don’t defrost a frozen turkey by sitting it on the kitchen counter at room temperature, which allows microbes to grow and spread. Defrosting in the refrigerator takes the longest — 24 hours for every five pounds of the turkey — but it is the best option because it requires the least amount of effort and will defrost at a consistent, safe temperature. The other ways to thaw are less time consuming, but certainly more effort. STOP Foodborne Illness suggests defrosting your turkey well in advance, as a thawed bird can sit in the fridge (at 40°F or below) for up to four days.

Wash your hands. “Often times we don’t think about washing our hands after touching raw products,” Schlunegger explains, “but it is imperative that you wash your hands every time you handle raw poultry, meat, or seafood.” Additionally, Schlunegger notes that you should not wash your turkey or chicken before cooking, as that can contaminate your sink or the items around it. She also suggests using separate cutting boards and knifes for different food products to avoid cross contamination.

Watch the temperature. “The only way you can be sure that a pathogen is destroyed in raw food is to make sure the turkey or chicken reaches the safe minimum internal temperature,” Schlunegger notes. “If you just look at it, you won’t be able to tell for sure that the pathogens are destroyed.” Whole turkeys should reach 165 degrees in three locations — the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the breast. Use a food thermometer to be sure.

Keep it cool. Thanksgiving leftovers are great for lunches and dinners in the days following the holiday. But to make sure it stays fresh, pack it up and put it in the refrigerator after the main holiday meal — within two hours of cooking — to prevent bacteria growth.

Travel size. If you’re not hosting a holiday meal, and are bringing home leftovers, remember to take a small cooler with ice or frozen gel packs with you to the party, to keep your leftovers at a chilly (and safe) 40 degrees or below — for the ride home.

The four-day rule. Leftovers can last four days in the refrigerator before becoming unsafe to eat. If plan to eat your Thanksgiving meal later than that, you should put the food in airtight containers and place it in the freezer.

 IMAGE:(Copyright Dreamstime)

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