As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, Queen’s North Hawai’i Community Hospital wants to assure that everyone has a healthy holiday. Gatherings with food are part of the holiday cheer, but the merriment can quickly change if food makes people ill. Here are a few tips to make sure your Thanksgiving is a healthy one:
- Thaw turkeys at a safe temperature. The “danger zone” is between 40° and 140°F — the temperature range where food borne bacteria multiply rapidly. Turkeys can be thawed in the refrigerator or under cold running water (never standing water) but must stay out of the danger zone between 40° and 140°F.
- Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate hands, utensils, and work surfaces. After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods to avoid bacteria transfer.
- For optimal safety, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking and use a food thermometer. Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.
- Make sure your turkey is completely thawed before cooking. Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer. The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Never partially cook a turkey to finish cooking later – cooking must be done all at once to assure the destruction of bacteria that cause food-borne illness.
- Refrigerate leftovers at 40°F or below within two hours of preparation. Don’t taste food that looks or smells questionable – when in doubt, throw it out. Leftovers should be used within three to four days.
- When traveling with food, consider type of food and distance to travel. It’s best for people traveling a long distance to bring non-perishable items such as rolls or cookies. Avoid leaving perishable foods at room temperature longer than 2 hours (1 hour if temperature is over 90° F).
- When traveling with food, keep hot foods hot (140° F or higher) by using containers designed to keep food hot. Keep cold foods cold using a cooler with ice or freezer packs to keep at 40° F or lower, especially if traveling over a half hour.