As the holidays approach, families and friends across Illinois will make plans to celebrate the season together with a delicious meal. However, a helping of salmonella or staph at the Thanksgiving table can ruin a holiday feast faster than dry turkey or lumpy mashed potatoes.
Many merrymakers may not know that more than 76 million people suffer from foodborne illnesses each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The risk of getting sick can be especially acute around this time of year.
Thanksgiving meals can be tricky; many home chefs are preparing dishes they don’t usually cook and for large numbers of people. In addition, improper food handling, incorrect food storage or poor temperature control on the buffet table can all contribute to food poisoning during the holidays.
Some of the symptoms of salmonella, or other food poisoning such as staph, include nausea, fever, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Depending on the exact type of food poisoning, symptoms may last from several hours to several days.
Whether you’re a five-star chef or an amateur hosting your first Thanksgiving, don’t serve a side of salmonella with your turkey and gravy. Follow the IPC’s top 10 tips for home chefs to avoid foodborne illness and keep guests from crying “fowl!”
- Keep countertops, stovetops, refrigerators, and other food preparation and storage areas clean.
Dirty utensils and prep areas can cross contaminate food and increase the possibility of food poisoning.
- Do not prepare food if you are sick or have any type of eye or sinus infection.
- Store raw food below cooked food in the refrigerator to avoid cross contamination.
- Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator or microwave, not at room temperature.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm, running water for at least 15 to 20 seconds before preparing any foods and especially after handling raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.
- Use separate cutting boards: one for meats, poultry and fish that could be contaminated with harmful bacteria and one for bread, fruits and vegetables that can be eaten without further cooking.
Example of cross contamination with raw turkey and tomatoes
Use separate cutting boards for meat/poultry and vegetables/bread.
- Wash cooking utensils after each use, and never reuse them, as dirty utensils can be a source of contamination.
- Use a meat thermometer to confirm that meat and poultry are properly cooked, and visit http://www.foodsafety.gov for temperature guidelines.
- Properly seal and store leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
- When in doubt, throw it out, especially when dealing with meat, poultry and dairy.
For more information on food safety and other topics from the IPC, click here.
From our family here at the Illinois Poison Center to yours, best wishes for a warm, happy and safe Holiday Season.