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Cooking a holiday meal for the family can be stressful for even the most experienced cooks. Stay safe from common foodborne illnesses by following these tips.

  • Clean: Wash your hands and food-preparation surfaces often. Germs can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.
  • Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate. Even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.
  • Cook: Cook to the right temperature. Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature:
    • 145°F for whole beef, veal, and lamb, and fresh pork and ham (allowing the meat to cool for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), and for fin fish.
    • 160°F for ground beef, veal, pork and lamb, and for egg dishes.
    • 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and ground turkey, and stuffing, leftovers and casseroles.
  • Chill: Keep your refrigerator below 40 degrees and refrigerate foods promptly. Germs can grow in many foods within 2 hours unless you refrigerate them.

The most common foodborne illnesses are norovirus, salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter. In most cases, symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea, but in some cases, such life-threatening complications as organ failure occur. In severe cases, foodborne illnesses can cause serious acute illness, long-term health problems or death. Young children, pregnant women, adults over 65, and people with weak immune systems are more likely to get food poisoning, and if they do get sick they may experience more severe symptoms. See your medical provider if you have:
  • High fever (temperature over 101.5 degrees, measured orally).
  • Blood in the stools.
  • Frequent vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down.
  • Signs of dehydration including a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up.
  • Diarrheal illness that lasts more than three days.

Turkey tips Food handling errors and inadequate cooking most commonly lead to poultry-associated foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States. Follow these food safety tips to help you safely prepare your next holiday turkey meal.
  • Safely thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in the microwave. Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter.

  • Safely handle your turkey
    • Raw poultry can contaminate anything it touches with harmful bacteria. Follow the four steps to food safety – clean, separate, cook and chill – to prevent the spread of bacteria to your food and family.
    • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before touching any food to prevent the spread of bacteria.
    • Do not wash the turkey. This only spreads pathogens onto kitchen surfaces. The only way to kill bacteria that causes foodborne illness is to fully cook the turkey.
    • Keep raw turkey separated from all other foods at all times.
    • Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils when handling raw turkey to avoid cross-contamination. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm soap and water, or place them in a dishwasher.

  • Safely stuff your turkey
    • Cooking stuffing in a casserole dish makes it easy to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. If you put stuffing in the turkey, do so just before cooking. Use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches 165 degrees. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165 degrees and may then cause food poisoning. Wait for 20 minutes after removing the bird from the oven before removing the stuffing from the turkey’s cavity; this allows it to cook a little longer.

  • Safely cook your turkey
    • Read your turkey’s label carefully, but set the oven temperature to at least 325 degrees. Place the completely thawed turkey with the breast side up in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2.5 inches deep. Cooking times will vary depending on the weight of the turkey. To make sure the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F, check by inserting a food thermometer into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.

  • Take care with leftovers
    • Clostridium perfringens are bacteria that grow in cooked foods left at room temperature. It is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning. Symptoms include vomiting and abdominal cramps within 6-24 hours after eating.
    • Clostridium perfringens outbreaks occur most often in November and December. Many of these are linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef.
    • Refrigerate leftovers at 40 degrees or colder as soon as possible, and within two hours of preparation.