Officials urge food safety precaution

Officials urge food safety precaution With Thanksgiving and the holiday feasting season starting, the South Dakota Department of Health reminds consumers about the importance of safe food handling to prevent foodborne illness. Bacteria or viruses may be present in foods, such as poultry, meat and raw vegetables, and can make people sick due to insufficient cooking, inadequate cooling and improper food handling practices.

"By following simple, common sense food safety tips, people can reduce the risk of foodborne disease," said Dave Micklos, the department's health protection administrator. "To ensure that holiday foods are safe, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers several tips to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. These food safety tips should be followed every day of the year, not just during the holiday season."

* Hands: Always wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling raw foods.

* Clean: Clean food-contact surfaces often. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges and counter tops.

* Cook: Cook to proper temperatures. Foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful microbes that cause foodborne illness.

* Chill: Refrigerate foods promptly, because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerators

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should be set at 40�F and the freezer at 0�F. Check the accuracy of the settings occasionally with a thermometer.

* Turkeys: Thawing the turkey completely before cooking is necessary to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. If it is not properly thawed, the outside of the turkey will be done before the inside, and the inside will not be hot enough to destroy disease-causing bacteria. Allow the correct amount of time to properly thaw and cook a whole turkey. A 20-pound turkey needs 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator at 40�F to thaw completely. A stuffed turkey needs 4 to 5 hours to cook completely. To check a turkey for doneness, insert a food thermometer into the inner thigh near the breast of the turkey but not touching bone. The turkey is done when the temperature reaches 180�F. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should be 165�F.

* Green onions: Following outbreaks of viral hepatitis A in eastern states, the FDA also suggests that consumers should cook green onions thoroughly before eating.

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