The State Health Department is offering some tips to help keep your Thanksgiving meal free of food-related illness. Holiday meals are an important tradition for many this time of year, and Eva Robelia with the State Health Department says some simple steps can prevent the family turkey from making everybody ill. She says four basic rules can prevent food-borne illness. First, clean up areas as you cook to avoid cross contamination of bacteria. Second, keep items being cooked and already finished food separate. Third, cook food properly and thoroughly. Finally, chill food and don't leave anything sitting out for long periods of time that should be refrigerated.

Thawing your turkey is also an important part of the process. It should be done in the fridge, but Robelia says thawing it in the sink is also an option if you forget to start the process early or just don't have room. Turkeys can be thawed by leaving them in cold water in a sink for 30 minutes for every pound of turkey. Robelia says you should change the water the turkey is sitting in often as well.

When the meal is done, Robelia says you should make sure to pack away leftovers quickly. Leftover turkey and stuffing should be used in two to three days. Gravy should be used in one to two days. Robelia says you can also freeze leftovers for later use. 

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (MP3 1:02)

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