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Preventing food poisoning after Thanksgiving

Preventing food poisoning after Thanksgiving

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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Leftovers are almost as big a tradition as thanksgiving itself and, unfortunately, so is food poisoning.

‘Twas the day after Thanksgiving and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except for uncle Fred and his plateful of e-coli.

Turns out that bird should've gone into the fridge within two hours of serving along with the stuffing, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes.

You know about cooking the turkey to the right temperature the first time, but leftovers also need to be heated properly to kill bacteria. Sauces, soups and gravies should be reheated to boiling and never in a slow cooker since that's too slow to keep the bacteria from growing.

According to the Mayo Clinic :

  • Leftovers may be kept up to four days if refrigerated, but should be frozen right away otherwise
  • Perishables should not be left out at room temperature longer than two hours
  • Leftovers need to be reheated thoroughly, just as they were heated thoroughly the first time!
  • If heating in the oven, set it no lower than 325F to ensure quick reheating
  • Bacteria multiply more quickly between 40F and 140F, so you shouldn't use a slow cooker to reheat

According to the CDC: - There are more than 250 different foodborne illnesses, the most common of which are caused by the Campobylacter, Salmonella and E. Coli bacteria.

  • Symptoms can take anywhere from hours to days to show up once someone is exposed to the foodborne illness.

The CDC says 325,000 Americans become hospitalized from illness spread by their food every year. Of those, an estimated 5,000 die. What follows is cut and pasted verbatim from their website: The CDC has these simple tips to reduce your risk of foodborne diseases:

  • COOK meat, poultry and eggs thoroughly. Using a thermometer to measure the internal temperature of meat is a good way to be sure that it is cooked sufficiently to kill bacteria. For example, ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 F. Eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm.
  • SEPARATE: Don't cross-contaminate one food with another. Avoid cross-contaminating foods by washing hands, utensils, and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry and before they touch another food. Put cooked meat on a clean platter, rather back on one that held the raw meat.
  • CHILL: Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature, so refrigerate leftover foods if they are not going to be eaten within 4 hours. Large volumes of food will cool more quickly if they are divided into several shallow containers for refrigeration.
  • CLEAN: Wash produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water to remove visible dirt and grime. Remove and discard the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage. Because bacteria can grow well on the cut surface of fruit or vegetable, be careful not to contaminate these foods while slicing them up on the cutting board, and avoid leaving cut produce at room temperature for many hours. Don't be a source of foodborne illness yourself. Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food. Avoid preparing food for others if you yourself have a diarrheal illness. Changing a baby's diaper while preparing food is a bad idea that can easily spread illness.
  • REPORT: Report suspected foodborne illnesses to your local health department. The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official contacts you to find our more about an illness you had, your cooperation is important. In public health investigations, it can be as important to talk to healthy people as to ill people. Your cooperation may be needed even if you are not ill.


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Becky Bruce


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