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The highly contagious norovirus causes 19 million to 21 million illnesses and contributes to 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths each year in the U.S., according to a recent Detroit Free Press article.  The norovirus is the most common source of what we commonly call “food poisoning.”

The holidays tend to invite a special opportunity for food-borne illnesses. Families prepare large amounts of food, often rushing through the preparation and cooking and leaving leftovers out too long.  At room temperature, bacteria can double every twenty minutes.  When it comes to preparation, bacteria easily transfers from the turkey to the cook’s hands to the refrigerator handle, to the hands of next person who touches it.

Follow these tips to keep foodborne illnesses off of your Thanksgiving guest list:

-Keep hot foods hot- above 140 degrees Fahrenheit;

-Keep cold foods cold- below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (in the refrigerator is best);

-According to an epidemiologist with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (interviewed by the Detroit Free Press), one of the most common mistakes is rinsing the turkey.  “There’s no reason to rinse, but more important, turkey juices splatter along the sink, the counter top and nearby dishes and appliances…bacteria by those droplets can be picked up by the cook and transferred…”  The turkey can be safely thawed by keeping it in the fridge or in cold water changed at least every 30 minutes;

-Keep things clean- wash hands frequently! Wash dishes, utensils, and prep surfaces frequently and thoroughly. Wipe counters with hot, soapy water. Use a bleach solution to disinfect by mixing one teaspoon of liquid, unscented bleach in one quart water;

-Change dish towels frequently;

-Use a meat thermometer- don’t rely on taste, smell or sight, and know safe cooking temperatures for different types of meat (Internal temperature of Turkey should be 165 degrees);

-Don’t prepare foods for others if you’re sick!

Check out the Center for Disease Control’s Thanksgiving Blog for the latest food safety tips.

I, as well as the staff at ChurchWyble, P.C. wish you a Happy (and safe)  Thanksgiving!

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