WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released some food safety tips ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The agency said that food poisoning is still a serious public threat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that millions of people suffer from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Recent USDA research also found that 34 percent of Americans may have someone at high risk for foodborne illness in their home. 

“Thanksgiving dinner is one of the largest meals we prepare each year,” said Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Carmen Rottenberg. “Don’t cut corners and put your family at risk for foodborne illness by forgetting to wash your hands after handling the raw turkey, and always remember to use a food thermometer to be sure it’s cooked to 165 degrees.”

The CDC recommends people wash their hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds.

In a recent USDA study, participants failed to wash their hands sufficiently 97 percent of the time.

“Without proper handwashing, a well-intentioned home cook could quickly spread bacteria around the kitchen,” the USDA said.  

The agency listed the following five steps: 

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel. 

The second recommendation from the USDA is to not rinse or wash your turkey. The agency said that washing the bird can spread bacteria around the kitchen, contaminating countertops, towels and other food.

In their last two recommendations, the USDA advised that people should check the temperature of the bird at the breast, wing and thigh and make sure all three locations reach 165°F.

Finally, consumers should make sure to put leftovers from Thanksgiving back in the refrigerator within two hours of eating.