Thanksgiving Food Safety

  • Published
  • By SrA Brandi Luffman
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Medical Group Public Health

The fall season is upon us which means endless potlucks, get-togethers, memories and food.  A popular way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to invite friends and family over for a meal. However, when foods are left on the counter for hours at a time it’s also an invite for unwanted bacteria that can cause a foodborne illness.  Celebratory times are for giving and sharing, laughter and joy, not foodborne illnesses.

It is estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illnesses occur each year in the U.S.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 3 percent of all foodborne illnesses occur from problems with food processing or manufacturing, 50-74 percent occur in food service, and 23-50 percent occur in the home.  Improper cooking and storage temperatures are the most common practices that contribute to foodborne illnesses as bacteria can double every 20 minutes in favorable conditions.  Poor personal hygiene and inadequate hand washing follow as the second most common practices resulting in foodborne illnesses.

            Cleanliness is the key to serving a safe meal.  Keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean.  While preparing foods, it is important to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.  To eliminate the chance of cross contamination, use separate utensils for your raw and cooked meats.

            If you are cooking ahead of time for your party, be sure to cook food thoroughly and test with an internal thermometer.  Each type of meat calls for specific temperatures:

  • 145ºF: whole beef/pork/veal/lamb, uncooked ham, fish & shellfish

  • 160ºF: ground meats, egg dishes

  • 165ºF: chicken/turkey/other poultry, leftovers

            Immediately place leftover food items in clean containers and place in the refrigerator. If foods have been left out at room temperature for more than four hours, they are unsafe and should be thrown away.

If you have any further questions about proper food handling please contact Altus Air Force Base Public Health at 481-5488.