Oktibbeha-Starkville Emergency Response Volunteer Services
The Preparation Phase: Lots of Hand-Washing
Risks for Cross-Contamination
Second to improper hand-washing on the problem list is cross-contamination. Have you ever sliced up raw chicken, lightly rinsed or wiped your knife and then used it on raw veggies (and probably the same cutting board, too)? That’s cross contamination.
Another form of cross-contamination happens when you wash your turkey before cooking it. Sure, your mother may have taught you that this how you “wash away” the germs, but according to the newest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, washing raw meat can actually increase the chances of spreading bacteria. If you’re trying to “clean” your meat, your best bet to get rid of bacteria is to cook it properly. Go ahead and skip that turkey bath
Watch the Clock
It’s all in the timing. Be mindful of how long your foods stay out at room temperature. Since bacteria thrive at room temperature, it’s important to prep what you need and either cook it immediately or refrigerate it for later use. Anything that remains out for more than two hours, especially raw meats, can make you and your guests ill. Take note: No defrosting on the counter!
The Cooking Phase: Reaching Proper Temperatures
We already covered the debate on whether to stuff or not stuff your turkey. In order to keep all your foods safe, cooking to the correct internal temperature is a must and that means you need a thermometer. If you don’t have one, buy one now! Here’s our rundown on some common types, so you can find the one for your needs.
When checking the turkey, you want to measure the temperature of the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast; it should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit. For other foods, place the thermometer in the thickest part and followthis USDA chart on specific cooking temperatures for various foods.
And don’t forget about those pre-cooked sides you made ahead of time. They also need to be reheated to the correct temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before being served — this kills off any bacteria that might have gotten on them during preparation.
The Cooling Phase: Packing Things Up
According to the Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), improper cooling causes more than half of food-borne illnesses. Once food is cooked, don’t let it sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. This is for heated foods and cold foods (i.e. fruit salad).
When you’re ready to cool your foods down and store them for leftovers, the technique depends on the type of food:
· Thanksgiving turkey: Cut the remaining meat into small pieces and lay them flat in a shallow container.
· Stuffing and other sides: If there’s a lot left, divide it into smaller containers so you can reheat a batch up at a time. Fill the containers so the food is no more two inches deep.
· Soup and gravy: Pour soup into smaller containers to allow for easier, faster cooling.
SAFETY TIP FOR TRICK OR TREATING
- Tips to ensure a Happy Halloween:
- Make costumes stand out. Add reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags and use face make-up instead of masks, which can lessen visibility.
- Parents and children should map out a safe route together to avoid dangerous situations.
- Appoint an adult to accompany children. Do not let children wander through the neighborhood without proper supervision of a responsible adult.
- Accept treats only at the door. Visit only the homes that have a porch light on and never go inside a home to accept candy.
- Stick to the sidewalks. Never walk in the street. If a sidewalk is not present, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic. Always look both ways before crossing the street and stick to crossing at street corners.
- Be careful of strangers and animals. Be especially careful to avoid stray dogs. Also be sure pets in the home are secured so that they do not accidentally jump on or bite visiting trick-or-treaters.
- Watch for open flames. An open flame in a jack-o-lantern could easily turn into a fire. Try using a flashlight or glow stick to light up jack-o-lanterns instead. In addition, be cautious of flames around costumes, which tend to be highly flammable.
- Inspect treats thoroughly. Examine each piece of candy carefully to ensure it is not contaminated. Throw away any treat which is spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious.
- Keep steps and front yard clear and well-lit. Make sure the outdoor lights are on. Clear the steps, sidewalks and front yard of leaves or other obstacles that a child could trip over.
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