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USDA Shares Easy At-Home Advice for Handling Food Safely this Thanksgiving

This week, Americans will enjoy a delicious meal on Thanksgiving Day with family and friends – either in person or virtually. 

Taking the necessary steps toward safe food handling and sanitation will help protect you and your loved ones this year. 

To make sure your Thanksgiving meal is prepared safely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering food safety advice to reduce foodborne illness, including on Thanksgiving Day. 

“Our data shows that consumers can reduce their likelihood of foodborne illness by focusing on good hand hygiene and other food safety practices,” said Dr. Mindy Brashears, USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety. 

“As home chefs nationwide prepare their Thanksgiving meals, proper handwashing and avoiding cross contamination in the kitchen are critical to keeping your loved ones safe.” 

Tips include: 

Wash Your Hands-The first step to safe food preparation is to clean. Handwashing is recommended to control the spread of germs, especially before, during and after preparing food (especially after touching raw meat or poultry).

Thawing the Turkey-Frozen turkeys should never be thawed on the counter or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. The best method to thaw the turkey is in the refrigerator since this allows slow, safe thawing. When thawing turkey in the refrigerator, allow about 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. 

Avoid Cross-Contamination-In a recent study, USDA found 60 percent of kitchen sinks were contaminated with germs after participants washed or rinsed poultry. To avoid this cross-contamination risk, do not wash your turkey. 

Do Not Stuff the Turkey-Although many choose to stuff the turkey, USDA does not recommend doing so for optimal safety. Instead, cook stuffing outside of the turkey cavity to reduce cross-contamination risk. This will also allow your turkey to cook more quickly.

Cooking to the Safe Temperature-A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit as measured by a food thermometer in three parts: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing, and the innermost part of the thigh. 

The Two-Hour Rule-To make sure food stays safe to eat through the weekend, all perishable items should be refrigerated within two hours of when they finished cooking. For advice about how to safely prepare the turkey and all other menu items this Thanksgiving Day, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety expert at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. If you need last-minute help on Thanksgiving Day, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Visit or follow USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Twitter @USDAFoodSafety or on Facebook at for the latest food safety tips.

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