Prevent Foodborne Illness This Holiday Season - - No One Gets You Closer

Prevent Foodborne Illness This Holiday Season


As cooks everywhere scurry in preparation for Thursday's biggest meal of the year and the holiday food season ahead, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reminds food preparers that the holiday season presents food safety challenges. Each year about one in six Americans becomes ill with a foodborne illness.  


The most common symptoms include nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.  Most illnesses are mild and only last a day or two; however, some are more serious, and lead to approximately 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.  People at the highest risk of becoming very sick from a foodborne illness are the elderly, children, individuals with a weakened immune system, and pregnant women.  Persons in these high-risk groups should take all precautions to prevent foodborne illness.


The OSDH offers these food safety recommendations:


  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before preparing food and often during food preparation.  Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
  • If you have been sick with diarrhea or vomiting, do not prepare food for at least 24 hours after your symptoms have stopped.  Remember to also cover your cough and wash your hands before returning to food preparation.
  • Disease-causing germs can spread from raw food that should be cooked to other foods. Use separate cutting boards to keep raw meats, poultry, seafood, and their juices separate from uncooked fruits and vegetables.
  • Always check the internal temperature of cooked meat, poultry and egg dishes with a food thermometer to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe temperature. The most reliable way to cook stuffing is separate from the turkey. For stuffed turkeys, the internal temperature of the stuffing must reach 165oF before it is safe to eat.
  • If preparing turkey, allow enough time for a frozen turkey to defrost. Incorrectly thawed turkey can look safe to eat but actually will be undercooked, allowing disease-causing germs to survive inside. Remember that frozen turkey should not be left in the car trunk, on the back porch, in the basement, or anyplace else where temperatures cannot be constantly monitored.
  • Within two hours after the meal, refrigerate remaining foods and leftover turkey. When foods are left out unrefrigerated, harmful germs multiply quickly.  Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.  Set refrigerators at 40oF and freezers at 0oF, and confirm the temperature with a thermometer.
  • Split leftovers into small shallow containers so food will cool quickly in the refrigerator. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within three to four days and gravy within one to two days. Reheat leftover gravy to a boil and thoroughly reheat other leftovers to 165oF.


For other safe holiday food preparation details, please visit the OSDH Acute Disease Service "Food Safety and Foodborne Diseases" website at