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VAN WERT — Thanksgiving is just around the corner and cooks are
planning feasts to include a number of favorite dishes. Food safety
should be uppermost in people’s minds. According to the Centers for
Disease Control, approximately 76 million get sick from foodborne
illness each year.

Kelly Freewalt, Sanitarian-in-Training for the
Van Wert County General Health District, said probably the most
important tip to remember is washing your hands.

“Wash your hands
often. Wash them with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds,” she
said. “Wash them definitely before and after preparing food, after
touching raw meats and before eating.”

She
said that turkeys should be thawed either in the refrigerator, in the
sink in cold water — changing the cold water every 20 to 30 minutes, or
in the microwave.

“Avoid thawing on the counter,” Freewalt said,
“because you want to keep the turkey at a safe thawing temperature to
prevent harmful germs from growing onto the turkey.”

Turkeys should not be washed.

“Washing
a turkey can spread pathogens throughout the kitchen. The only real way
to kill pathogens is to cook properly,” she said.

Another tip to keep in mind is cooking your foods to the correct temperature.

“A lot of people don’t know the safe temperatures to cook food and,
especially for Thanksgiving, you want to cook your turkey to 165 degrees
throughout the whole turkey. You want to check the three most important
places: the biggest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh
and the wing.”

She added that the proper temperature to cook eggs was 145 degrees and any kind of vegetable to 135 degrees.

She said thermometers should be calibrated to insure a correct temperature reading.

“You
can just take your thermometer, put it in a cup of icy, cold water and
let it sit for 30 seconds then reset the little level back to 32 degrees
so it just recalibrates.”

Anyone who is unsure about their thermometer may want to consider buying a new one.

She
further advised people remember to simply, “keep your hot foods hot and
your cold foods cold.” She said hot foods should be kept at 135 degrees
or above and cold foods at 41 degrees or below.

Further, separate cutting boards, plates and utensils used for raw foods and immediately clean them.

“Wash
them with warm, soapy water and put them in the dishwasher. You don’t
want to use that accidentally for vegetables, then contaminate your
vegetables,” Freewalt warned.

Finally, don’t allow leftovers to sit out too long.

“If
you have any leftovers, don’t let them sit out at room temperatures for
too long, try to get them into the refrigerator as soon as possible.”

She
advised people to put leftovers in shallow containers to get them cold
quicker and keep the raw foods from the ready-to-eat.

“During
holidays, we let things sit out a little too long. You really don’t want
stuff to sit out, especially over two hours. If it’s over two hours,
definitely throw it away,” Freewalt said.

Freewalt added that anyone with questions regarding food safety can check out the CDC website.



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