May 24, 2018
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Food safety important concern on Thanksgiving

By Carol Higgins Taylor, Senior Beat

Thanksgiving in upon us but as we look forward to a delicious meal with all the trimmings, we should be aware of one important component — food safety.

Some people eat cookie dough and love traditional homemade eggnog but it’s risky because raw eggs can be dangerous to consume. To be safe, bake your cookies, even if the grandkids beg for the dough, and only drink pasteurized eggnog.

Even if something is perfectly safe to eat, time is not on your side. According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service website, there are guidelines in place that, if followed, should help keep your food safe to consume. The information below is directly from the website:

• Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within two hours of cooking or purchasing.

• Never thaw food at room temperature, such as on the counter top. It is safe to thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. If you thaw food in cold water or in the microwave, you should cook it immediately.

• Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.

The prep for the big meal can be enjoyable if you like cooking but there are important guidelines to follow while making the meal as well. The USDA website also recommends:

•Washing hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds, time to sing “Happy Birthday” twice, before and after handling food or handling pets. I don’t subscribe to the pet part and have lived to tell the tale but better to be safe than sorry.

•Washing cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next food.

•Using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces.

—Washing produce. Rinse fruits and vegetables, and rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. I like using citrus based veggie soap available at the grocery store.

—And how many of us wash the lids of canned foods before opening? Well, we should because all that grime from the grocery store settles on the top of the can and then, when we open the can, it can fall into the food.

Now, let’s talk turkey. When cooking the bird turkey, insert a meat thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast, being careful not to touch the bone. The turkey is done when it reaches 180 degrees. The stuffing should be 165 degrees. Then serve your guests and put the turkey in the refrigerator.

And speaking of stuffing, if your personal recipe calls for oysters make sure they have been properly refrigerated or iced, especially if you’re serving people with weakened immune systems or liver disorders, as they have an increased risk of becoming ill from improperly stored seafood. To be especially safe, cook the stuffing outside the bird.

Getting treats in the mail is exciting, but if you plan to send food, tell the recipient what you have ordered and when it will arrive. It may ruin the surprise but it’s better than risking spoilage. If your gift is perishable, it should be quite cold when it arrives, be unpacked immediately and refrigerated.

Cheese is another holiday treat that is nutritious and delicious but be careful of the soft ones, which are typically not processed, such as feta, brie, camembert, and blue-veined. Before you pile one of these on a cracker, check to see if it is cold. If not, opt for the cheddar.

Most of all have a great holiday season. And remember, chocolate is safe in all settings and temperatures.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. E-mail Taylor at For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free (800) 432-7812, e-mail or log on TTY 992-0150.

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