Thanksgiving Food Safety Tips from NHCH

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and part of the joy is the delicious food shared with family and friends.

North Hawai’i Community Hospital shares the following food safety tips to ensure that food is safely prepared, delivered, and enjoyed.

  • Thaw turkeys at a safe temperature. The “danger zone” is between 40° and 140°F — the temperature range where food borne bacteria multiply rapidly. Turkeys can be thawed in the refrigerator or under cold running water (never standing water) but must stay out of the danger zone between 40° and 140°F.
  • Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate hands, utensils, and work surfaces. If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from raw poultry can be transferred. After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods.
  • For optimal safety, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer. Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Make sure your turkey is completely thawed before cooking. Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer. The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Never partially cook a turkey to finish cooking later. Cooking must be done in one continuous operation to assure the destruction of bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses.
  • Refrigerate leftovers at 40°F or below as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation. Don’t taste food that looks or smells questionable. When in doubt, throw it out. Leftovers should be used within three to four days.
  • When traveling with food, consider the type of food and distance to travel. Avoid leaving perishable foods at room temperature longer than two hours (one hour if temperature is over 90° F). It’s best for people traveling a long distance to bring non-perishable items, such as rolls or cookies.
  • When traveling with food, keep hot foods hot (140° F or higher) by using containers designed to keep food hot. Keep cold foods cold using a cooler with ice or freezer packs to keep at 40° F or lower, especially if traveling for over 30 minutes.


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