Get Healthy Carson City: Handle food properly for a healthy Thanksgiving

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day, and across the United States, millions of people will gather with friends and family to enjoy a meal together. For many Americans, Thanksgiving represents a departure from our normal cooking habits (how often do most of us roast a whole turkey?) and an opportunity to fill our refrigerators with delicious leftovers (turkey sandwiches, anyone?). The environmental health specialists here at the health department — the same people responsible for ensuring the safety of our local eateries and markets — have some tips for safe food preparation and storage you can use in your home kitchen this holiday season.

Clean/sanitize: Keep kitchen bacteria levels down by regularly cleaning hands, cutting boards, knives and counter tops.

“The most important thing you can do to stop the spread of germs is to wash your hands,” says epidemiologist Dustin Boothe.

Before you start to prepare a meal, make sure you wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.

“By any measure, sanitizing food contact surfaces after cleaning and rinsing is one of the primary actions to utilize during home cooking,” says Environmental Health Specialists Greg Parks and Mark Sproat.

Wash any used utensils and dishes. Wipe down counter tops with disinfecting wipes or a bleach solution.

Separate: Bacteria spread through cross-contamination, so never put ready-to-eat foods on any surface where raw meat, poultry, seafood or their juices have been. Using the same utensil without cleaning it can cross-contaminate foods and lead to food borne illness.

Cook: Heating to proper temperatures is important to ensure any bacteria in raw foods — especially meats — are killed during the cooking process. You can’t tell if something is cooked safety by how it looks, so make sure by using a food thermometer. With a large item, like a turkey, it’s especially important to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. If you’re stuffing your turkey, it’s critical to ensure both the stuffing and the turkey reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Chill: Refrigerate or freeze leftover food promptly (within two hours is best). One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is being able to make leftover turkey sandwiches the next day, but to do this, proper cooling and storage of the food is critical. Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of your refrigerator. It should be 40 degrees or less. Don’t let food sit out, this can help bacteria grow.

For more information on safe food practices, visit For more information about Health Department services, check out our newly redesigned website at or like us on Facebook at

Carson City Health and Human Services will be closed this Thursday and Friday so our employees can enjoy time with their loved ones, but we will reopen for normal business hours next Monday, Nov. 30.


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