Don't be a turkey! 4 Thanksgiving food safety tips

Make sure you follow simple food handling safety tips to avoid poisoning your loved ones this Thanksgiving.
Make sure you follow simple food handling safety tips to avoid poisoning your loved ones this Thanksgiving.
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There’s only one thing worse than an obnoxious relative to ruin a perfectly good Thanksgiving holiday, and that’s food poisoning.

But each year, many Turkey Day revelers get sick from food borne illnesses that are easy to prevent. 

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health offers these tips to protect your loved ones:

1. Defrost it in the fridge: It’s best to defrost your frozen turkey in its original wrapper in your refrigerator: Allow 24 hours for every five pounds. If you’re short on time, you can put the securely wrapped bird in a bowl of cold water that you replace every 30 minutes. You'll need about 30 minutes for each pound of meat.  

Still short on time? Defrost it your microwave, then cook it immediately.

2. Cook it well: Before feasting on the big bird, make sure its meat temperature reaches 165 degrees or higher. Check the temperature by inserting a thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey's thigh, without touching the bone.

3. Separate raw meats and poultry from other foods. Use separate cutting boards, knives and platters for raw meats and other foods. Wash the boards, knives and platters thoroughly between each use.

4. Hot and Cold: Keep hot foods hot and keep  cold foods cold throughout the festivities. Refrigerate  leftovers within two hours. 

Symptoms of food-borne illnesses — including stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea — can start hours or days after eating contaminated or undercooked foods. Most people who suffer from a food-borne illness will recover without medical treatment. But food poisoning can be life-threatening for young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.   

For more information on safe cooking, visit the USDA website or call the toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. For the Hearing Impaired: 1-800-256-7072 (TTY). You may speak with a food safety specialist, in English or Spanish, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. PT during the week year round. An extensive menu of recorded food safety messages may be heard 24 hours a day.