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Holiday Food Safety

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Holiday Food Safety

During the holidays we love gathering with family and friends and enjoying great holiday meals. But it’s important to take precautions to prevent food poisoning. 


Becky Devore is a Nurse Educator with the Alabama Poison Information Center. She offers some helpful tips to make your holiday celebrations more enjoyable. Starting with the turkey, Devore says it’s not necessary to wash your turkey before cooking it. “Don’t wash your turkey, wash your hands,” she says. “The only thing that will take care of bacteria that might be in the turkey is to cook it to the proper temperature which is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.”


It’s important to use a meat thermometer when cooking a turkey. As Devore says, “You cannot tell if a turkey is done by the color. The color is not enough.”


Devore advises to plan your holiday feast several days in advance. If a turkey is frozen and needs to be thawed the best way to safely do so is in the refrigerator. “It takes 24 hours per 4-5 pounds of turkey to thaw in the refrigerator, so it may take several days,” she says.


Other tips include washing your hands throughout meal preparation. Before, during, and after handling all food. She also reminds home cooks to use different cutting boards and utensils for handling raw meat and all other foods. “Be sure to use only non-porous cutting boards made out of glass or plastic for raw meat,” she says.
After the meal is over, be mindful of your leftovers. Put everything away that needs to be refrigerated within two hours. Devore says leftovers should be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. “If in doubt, throw it out!” she says.
The symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever

If you believe you or someone in your family has suffered from food poisoning or any other type of poisoning call the Alabama Poison Information Center toll free at 1-800-222-1222. A registered nurse or pharmacist will take your call and can advise you on the best response. Keep in mind that children, pregnant women, the elderly, or anyone in poor health is most at risk from food poisoning. 
This holiday season, keep these tips in mind to avoid food poisoning and focus on enjoying this time with friends and family.