BLOOMINGTON — Each year, one in six Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages, and most of those illnesses happen in November and December, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"Thanksgiving meals can be tricky; home chefs are preparing dishes they don't usually cook and for large numbers of people," Dr. Michael Wahl, medical director of the Illinois Poison Center, said in a statement. "Common sources of food borne illness during the holidays include salmonella from handling turkey and other raw poultry and staph poisoning from improper food storage."
Symptoms may include nausea, fever, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea that may last several hours.
The good news is that home executive chefs and sous chefs can reduce the risk of salmonella and staph by taking several steps. Here are holiday food safety tips from the Illinois Poison Center, McLean County Health Department, Illinois Department of Public Health and CDC:
- Don't prepare food if you are sick, including if you have an eye or sinus infection.
- Thaw meat or poultry in the refrigerator or microwave, not at room temperature.
- Store raw food under and away from cooked food in the fridge to avoid cross-contamination.
- Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops before and after preparing each food item.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 15 seconds before preparing food and after handling raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs.
- Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and for bread, fruits and vegetables.
- Set oven temperature to at least 325 degrees. Place a completely thawed turkey with breast side up in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2½ inches deep. Cooking time will depend on the weight of the turkey.
- Use a meat thermometer to confirm that meat and poultry are properly cooked. Temperature guidelines are at www.foodsafety.gov. A turkey's center must be cooked to 165 degrees. Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving.
- Cook stuffing in a casserole dish. If you stuff the turkey, do so just before cooking. Use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing's center reaches 165 degrees.
- Make sure hot foods stay hot (above 140 degrees) and cold foods stay cold (below 40 degrees). Don't eat food that has been out for more than two hours.
- Seal and store leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible after eating and definitely within two hours.
- Reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees.
- Eat or freeze gravy within two days. Eat or freeze other leftovers within three to four days.