News Releases > State health officials offer tips for a healthy Thanksgiving
INDIANAPOLIS---The Thanksgiving feast traditionally marks the beginning of the holiday season, and the Indiana State Department of Health is offering some timely food safety tips.
"The single best way to prepare and consume food safely is to wash your hands before cooking, serving, or eating," said Amie ThurdeKoos, enteric disease epidemiologist at the Indiana State Department of Health's Food Protection Program. "Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat, like ground beef or poultry."
"Food temperature is also important," ThurdeKoos said. "If a food is intended to be served hot, make sure to cook it fully before serving it. On the other hand, if a food is intended to be served cooler and put it out on the table rcold, keep it cold." "Never let cold food sit out for an extended period of time. If you're serving cold pasta salad, store it in a refrigerator or aight before the food is served."
According to ThurdeKoos, another effective technique to avoid foodborne illness is to buy a good meat thermometer and use it to make sure that meat is cooked to its appropriate temperature. She says when preparing a turkey, the minimum internal temperature must reach 165° F for safety. If you don't have a meat thermometer, cook meats until the juices run clear.
Cooks taking on turkey preparation are just a phone call away from advice at the USDA meat and poultry hotline, 1-888-MPHOTLINE (1-888-674-6854). The hotline operates Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, and will operate on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET. Consumers can also "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day, at AskKaren.gov.
Large meals and a probable volume of leftovers mean consumers should do some advance preparation to get the kitchen "food safe" for the holiday. ThurdeKoos recommends the following:
· Size up refrigerator space and refrigerator temperature. Make sure you have sufficient space and plan your menu accordingly. Use an appliance thermometer to ensure that your refrigerator is indeed at or below 40° F.
· Plan your thaw. The safest way to thaw a whole turkey is in the refrigerator, so allow 24 hours thawing for each 4 to 5 pounds of turkey.
· Have one or more food thermometers on hand. You will need to measure the temperature of your turkey, other meats, seafood, side dishes and casseroles. You should use a conventional thermometer, even if your turkey has a pop-up indicator.
· Have plenty of paper towels or clean cloth towels on hand for cleaning of surfaces, drying hands, and for blotting dry fresh fruits and vegetables after rinsing. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washer.
· Make refrigeration, such as bread, rolls, beverages or cookies and cakes without cream or egg fillings. sure you have shallow storage containers with lids on hand for safely storing leftovers within two hours of dinner.
· Plan to have a cooler on hand full of ice where you can keep beverages, freeing up refrigerator space and helping to avoid having guests going in and out of the refrigerator during meal preparation.