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Food Borne Illness: Don't Have an Uninvited Guest at Your Holiday Gathering

Charlotte, NC - Soon families will gather together for the Thanksgiving holiday and the Mecklenburg County Health Department wants you to be mindful of the basics of food safety when preparing your holiday feast.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates 76 million cases of food borne disease occur each year in the United States. Most cases are mild and cause symptoms only for a day or two. Others, however, are more serious and the CDC reports there are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to these illnesses each year.

By following four basic food safety practices everyone can reduce the risk of food borne illness.

  • Separate foods to avoid cross-contamination. Store raw meat and poultry so that juices don't drip onto other foods. Wash hands, cutting board and utensils after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry and before they touch another food.
  • Cook foods to a proper temperature. For turkey, use a meat thermometer to make sure the meat is cooked all the way through. Heating to the correct temperature will make sure any harmful bacteria are killed.
  • Cleanliness is key! Wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water before and after preparing food. Avoid preparing food for others if you are sick.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw it in the refrigerator. For a quick thaw, submerge in cold water in an airtight package or thaw in the microwave if you are cooking it immediately. Store prepared foods and leftovers at the correct temperatures. Remember, bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature so refrigerate leftovers promptly.  

Most people would agree that the holidays are a special time for special activities, many of them food related. Who would want to spoil the season by giving someone a food borne illness? Though it certainly has been done in the past, it's one holiday tradition not worth keeping.

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