1 in 6: Your Risk for Food Poisoning

Is it just me, or is anyone else surprised that it’s time to thaw a turkey?

Ready or not, it’s time for everyone’s favorite food-filled holiday.  Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to share some time with those special to us and over a beautiful meal.  But if yours is anything like my family, you will inevitably find a rotating cast of characters in their pajamas staring into an open refrigerator late into the evening hours for leftovers. (Isn’t that the best part?)

Before you saddle your family up for next day turkey sandwiches, make sure your food is safe.  Along with that big Thanksgiving meal comes the increased risk of food borne illness.  This year alone, one-in-six Americans will have food poisoning, and the holiday party season is a prime target.  So how do you keep your family safe? 

  1.  Wash!  Your!  HANDS! - Seems easy enough, right?  But when you are shuffling between dirty dishes and transferring leftovers, it’s easy to cross contaminate bacteria between foods.  Put all the leftover food away first, washing your hands before and after, then tackle the dishes and trash. 
  2. Chill out - Don’t let foods sit out for more than two hours.  Keeping foods at the appropriate temperatures decreases the risk of bacterial growth.  When you are ready to store, put small amounts of foods in shallow containers, helping to cool foods quickly and evenly.  Avoid storing foods in large containers where the center may take hours to reach the safe temperature of less than 40⁰ F.
  3. Reheat, then eat - When you are warming up your meal the next day, use a meat thermometer to make sure your food reaches a temperature of 165⁰ F.  This is a great resource on cooking and reheating foods Holiday Helper Temperature Chart
  4. Know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em - Most holiday favorites can stay in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, but after that it’s time to toss them.  Both cooked turkey and other meats can stay refrigerated for up to four days, or frozen for two to six months.  Vegetables, soups, and stews also have a 3-4 day window in the refrigerator, and can be safely frozen for three months. 

And how do you keep your homemade apple and pumpkin pies safe?  Well those probably won’t make it past the Thursday night refrigerator raid...

Enjoy a safe and healthy holiday!

Beth Wallace, a registered dietitian at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, has more than six years of experience in providing nutrition care for children and adolescents