Don't Let Food Poisoning Make Your Thanksgiving A Turkey

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email

Don't Let Food Poisoning Make Your Thanksgiving A Turkey

Posted: 11/16/2010
Food safety isn't on your holiday to-do list? Maybe it should be. Incorrectly prepared or improperly stored food can be dangerous and even life-threatening, especially for older adults, young children and pregnant women. Typical symptoms of food borne illness include stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, and usually start a few days after the contaminated food is consumed. Don't send your guests home with an unpleasant culinary surprise. Knox County Health Department would like to pass along these quick food safety tips from the Food and Drug Administration.

Clean and Separate:

Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food. Use warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Wash food contact surfaces such as cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops after preparing each food item and before beginning the next item. Use separate cutting boards for foods that will be cooked, such as meat and seafood, and ready-to-eat foods such as raw fruits and vegetables. Rinse fruit and vegetables thoroughly and use a scrub brush to remove surface dirt. Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking. It will more likely spread bacteria. Keep raw meats, poultry and seafood away from foods that won't be cooked, both at the store and at home. Do not put cooked meat back on the same plate that has held raw meat.


Use a food thermometer to ensure that meat has reached a safe internal temperature. Thermometers are available just about everywhere for $5 or less. To check a turkey for doneness, insert a food thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast, but not touching the bone. The turkey is done when the temperature reads 180 degrees. Stuffing inside the bird should be 165 degrees.


Use the two-hour rule. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of serving. If necessary, set the oven timer when you sit down to eat to remind you when to put away the leftovers. Your refrigerator should be set no higher than 40 degrees and the freezer at 0 degrees. If you load hot casseroles and gravies into the fridge, it will struggle to keep the correct temperature. Use an appliance thermometer (available for about $5 in the housewares section of most stores) to check periodically for proper cooling. Never defrost food at room temperature. A 20-pound frozen turkey needs two to three days in the refrigerator to thaw completely, so plan accordingly. Cold running water and the microwave may also be used to thaw food, but food defrosted in this manner should be cooked immediately.

No one likes to waste food, so be sure to clean, cook and store foods properly. When it comes to food safety, a good rule-of-thumb is "when in doubt, throw it out." Food that looks or smells off, or has been sitting out for an extended period should not be eaten.

Knox County Health Department is part of the U.S. Public Health System, serving under the umbrella of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tennessee Department of Health. With an organizational vision of "Every Person a Healthy Person," KCHD is committed to promoting public health policies and practices to safeguard and improve quality of life for all residents. As the guardian of public health in Knox County, KCHD is responsible for disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, air quality management, ensuring safe food preparation practices in public places, providing nutritional programs, family planning, immunizations and much more.

For more information about Knox County Health Department, visit