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When family and friends gather during the holidays, don’t let unsafe food spoil the festivities. Bacteria is the invisible enemy in food because you can’t see it, taste or smell it. It can multiply rapidly in moist, warm conditions and cause food-borne illness when consumed.

Brooke Schembri, RD, Director of WellStar Corporate & Community Health recommends the following tips to ensure you have a safe holiday celebration:

  • Wash hands and food contact surfaces often to prevent the spread of bacteria from one food item to another.
  • Always keep cooked foods separate from raw items. Store raw meat on a shelf below cooked items and produce in the refrigerator to prevent raw juices from contaminating other foods.
  • Never thaw meats at room temperature. Thaw your turkey in a refrigerator set below 40 degrees. Plan ahead because a 20-pound turkey will take about three days to completely thaw in the refrigerator.
  • Make sure foods are cooked to the proper temperatures (165 degrees for a whole turkey) to kill harmful bacteria.
  • NEVER leave perishable foods at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Always keep hot foods hot and cold food cold. The danger zone for bacteria growth is between 40 and 140 degrees.
  • Place leftovers in small containers so they will cool quickly and refrigerate as soon as possible. Be sure to eat leftover turkey within 3-4 days.
  • When in doubt, always throw out foods that you suspect may have been stored unsafely.