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Health Bytes: Holiday Awareness

Dear Town Residents:

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food.

Holiday meals can be memorable, but it takes more than a great recipe to make those memories happy because you can get food poisoning after swallowing food that has been contaminated with a variety of germs (bacteria, viruses, parasites) or toxic substances (chemical toxins or natural toxins such as those in some mushrooms and molds).

Following four simple steps at home — Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill — can help protect you and your loved ones from food poisoning.

Clean:  Wash your hands and surfaces often.

  • Germs that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen.
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
  • Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.

Separate:  Don’t cross-contaminate.

  • Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.
  • Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • When grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry; seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the fridge.

COOK:  To the right temperature.

  • Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer.  You can’t tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Check this chart for a detailed list of foods and temperatures.
  • 145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating);
  • 160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork;
  • 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey;
  • 165°F for leftovers and casseroles.

Chill  Refrigerate promptly.

  • Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F. Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours.
  • Keep your refrigerator below 40°F and know when to throw food out.
  • Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. (If outdoor temperature is above 90°F, refrigerate within 1 hour.)
  • Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on the counter, because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.

Turkey Basics:  Safe Thawing

Safe Methods for Thawing

Immediately after grocery store checkout take the frozen turkey home and store it in the freezer.  When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator:

  • Plan ahead: allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below.
  • Place the turkey in a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods.

*Refrigerator Thawing Times

Whole turkey:

  • 4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days

Cold Water Thawing

First be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water, resulting in a watery product.

Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water.  Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed.  Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.

*Cold Water Thawing Times 

  • 4 to 12 pounds — 2 to 6 hours
  • 12 to 16 pounds — 6 to 8 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds — 8 to 10 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds — 10 to 12 hours

*Microwave Thawing

Follow the microwave oven manufacturer’s instruction when defrosting a turkey.  Plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.  Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed.  A turkey thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately.

If you need additional information, feel free to contact our Team in OVNA:

Maria Biondi, LPN, Community Liaison

Judy Benson RN, BSN Administrator

Fatima Elfadli, Intern – Health Department

Amir Mohammad, MD, Medical Director


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Healthy People 2020.

United States Department of Agriculture:  Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA)

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