Health officials offer tips before Thanksgiving meal

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OKLAHOMA CITY – In just a few days, families across the country will be getting ready to make a big feast.

Before you put the turkey in the oven, the Oklahoma City-County Health Department wants to remind you of a few steps to prevent an illness.

1. Clean: Start by washing your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling any food for 20 seconds. Also, wash food-contact surfaces with hot, soapy water before going on to the next item. Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

2. Separate: Keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood and their juices away from foods that won’t be cooked. Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked and another for raw vegetables and fruits.

3. Cook: Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165 degrees. If the turkey is stuffed, then the temperature of the stuffing should be 165 degrees. Cook sauces and gravies to a boil. Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm.

4. Chill: Refrigerate foods quickly. Harmful bacteria grows at room temperature. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours, including pumpkin pie. Never defrost food at room temperature. Foods can be defrosted safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave. Leftovers should be used within three to four days.