Besides a tasty meal and good cheer, after our Thanksgiving meal, we want to leave the table feeling as well as when we sat down.

Hospital ERs prepare for an increase in food-borne illnesses many caused by improper food handling, this time a year.Here are a few basic guidelines from the US Dept. of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to help avoid the pitfalls of food poisoning.

Keep your work space free of contamination: Avoid food cross-contamination. During preparation never use the same cutting board for meat or poultry and for produce. And the same goes for putting cooked meat or poultry on the cutting board had raw meat or poultry. Always wash hands and kitchen utensils with soap and hot water between handling one food and before moving on to another.

Cook the turkey and stuffing separately: The FSIS recommends cooking the stuffing separately in a casserole. The danger is filling the bird with stuffing may not allow it reach the minimum temperature of 165°F. This temperature destroysany bacteria making the food is safe to eat. This is especially important for households with very young or elderly residents or anyone else with a compromised immune system.

Use a food thermometer to check internal temperature: When you think the turkey appears done, insert the food thermometer’s probe at three points—the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast—to check for an internal temperature of 165°F. If you aren’t there, return the bird to the oven for further roasting.

Do not let meat stand at room temperature: For foods containing animal proteins, remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Harmful bacteria multiply fastest between 40°F and 140°F. This also applies to leftovers. After everyone is finished cut the turkey into smaller pieces and refrigerate. (slice breast meat; legs and wings can stay whole).

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