Food safety tips for the holiday season

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, health officials are offering tips to prevent serving a side of salmonella with your holiday turkey.

Each year, an estimated 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from foodborne diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Norovirus and salmonella pathogens account for 69 percent of those illnesses, according to the CDC.

More than 46 million turkeys will be eaten this Thanksgiving, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And for many, the turkey will be the largest dish that cooks ever encounter.

“Unsafe handling and undercooking of your turkey can lead to serious foodborne illness,” said Al Almanza, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, in a news release.

To prevent foodborne illness, health officials with the USDA and Clark County Public Health offer these tips:

-A fresh turkey should be cooked within two days of purchase.

-Frozen turkeys should be thawed in the refrigerator (allow 24 hours for a 12-pound turkey); in a bowl or sink filled with cold water (allow 30 minutes per pound); or in the microwave (cook immediately after thawing).

-After working with raw turkey, wash hands, utensils and work surfaces to prevent bacteria from contaminating other foods.

-If cooking stuffing in the turkey, make sure the center of the stuffing reaches at least 165 degrees.

-Cook turkey to at least 165 degrees. Place the thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and thickest part of the breast.

-Refrigerated turkey leftovers should be eaten within three or four days.

Health officials also recommend refrigerating leftovers promptly. Doing so keeps most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying.

For help with leftovers, the USDA created a phone app, FoodKeeper, to help people determine which food and drinks can be kept and which should be thrown out. The app offers advice on more than 400 items.

In addition, the USDA’s Meat & Poultry Hotline will be open on Thanksgiving Day to help people with cooking questions. Food safety experts will be taking calls from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving.

For more on food safety, visit

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

Scroll to top