Holiday Food Safety

Holiday Food Safety

How To

Holiday Food Safety


It’s almost Thanksgiving day, and you are planning the menu, picking up some early items, and wondering when exactly to unthaw that turkey! Here are some places to get help:

  • Be Food Safe now offers a Web site,, that just might help. The site includes food shopping and preparation tips, recipes, and food safety advice and activities — all in one convenient location.
  • The FDA hotline at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366) fields consumers’ questions about safe handling of the many foods that go into a holiday meal, including eggs, dairy, fresh produce, and seafood. The hotline operates Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Consumers can also email questions to
  • Cooks taking on turkey preparation are just a phone call away from advice at the USDA meat and poultry hotline, 1-888-MPHOTLINE (1-888-674-6854). The hotline operates Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, and will operate on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET. Consumers can also “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day, at

Here are a few tips:

* Use a food thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of your turkey reaches 165 degrees F.

* Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling food.

* Size up refrigerator space and refrigerator temperature. Make sure you have sufficient space and plan your menu accordingly. Use an appliance thermometer to ensure that your refrigerator is indeed at or below 40 degrees F.

* The safest way to thaw a whole turkey is in the refrigerator, so allow 24 hours thawing for each 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. * Have one or more food thermometers on hand. You will need to measure the temperature of your turkey, other meats, seafood, side dishes and casseroles. You should use a conventional thermometer, even if your turkey has a pop-up indicator.

* Have plenty of paper towels or clean cloth towels on hand for cleaning of surfaces, drying hands, and for blotting dry fresh fruits and vegetables after rinsing. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washer.

* Make sure you have shallow storage containers with lids on hand for safely storing leftovers within two hours of dinner. * If guests offer to contribute a dish to the festivities, ask them to bring items that don’t require refrigeration, such as bread, rolls, beverages or cookies and cakes without cream or egg fillings.

* Plan to have a cooler on hand full of ice where you can keep beverages, freeing up refrigerator space and helping to avoid having guests going in and out of the refrigerator during meal preparation.

Other resources:
Become a fan of USDA on Facebook at For more information on food safety, go to and


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