Turkey day is just around the corner, but some shocking statistics may dampen the excitement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts one in six Americans will get some sort of food borne illness during the year. But there are some steps you can take to make sure your delicious food stays down during the holidays.
In two weeks, families across the U.S. will consume 46 million turkeys in one day, but not all chefs are up to the task.
“Of course, with so many people preparing a meal that don’t cook very often, hosts must be especially careful,” says Archie Magoulas with the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline.
USDA experts say the four words to remember are: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.
Clean first by wiping down your surfaces and washing your hands for at least 20 seconds before you get started.
While preparing your meal, keep raw meats separate from cooked and ready to eat foods.
The CDC reports more than 160 cases of salmonella have been linked to raw turkey this year, making it even more important to cook your bird thoroughly.
Magoulas encourages using a food thermometer to make sure it reaches 165 degrees.
“You can’t tell by looking at the meat and something so large,” Magoulas says.
One of the best times for bacteria to appear, however, is after you have had your fill.
“You have to refrigerate food when you have leftovers from the party, from any gathering within two hours at room temperature,” advises Magoulas.
You can also chill cold food on ice or keep food warm in an oven heated to at least 140 degrees.
If you do start to feel sick, you may have simply stuffed down too much stuffing. Be concerned, though, if you develop a fever or chills.
Magoulas says symptoms of food poisoning “appear like a flu or a cold, but they could be from food.”
Symptoms will usually go away within a day, but you should definitely see a doctor if your illness lasts longer than three.
The USDA will be on hand to answer any other questions before and during Thanksgiving. You can reach out to their online chat at www.askkaren.gov or call their hotline at 1-888-674-6854. On Thanksgiving, the online chat will be available from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. central time, and the hotline will be open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. central time.