Gayle Finkelstein is the Northern New England Poison Center Vermont Educator, and Poison Outreach Educator at the UVM Medical Center’s Community Health Improvement Office.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks and celebrate. Friends and families come together and enjoy a wonderful turkey dinner. By following simple storage, handling and cooking suggestions, your family can enjoy a safe, healthy Thanksgiving dinner.

Follow these tips to keep away an unwanted Thanksgiving guest – food poisoning.

  • Handle food carefully. Wash hands, dishes, kitchen equipment and work surfaces before and after handling raw food. Don’t forget to clean knives after each use. Even frozen food can contain bacteria.
  • Cook food thoroughly. Salmonella is a common food poisoning typically found in raw meats, poultry, milk and fish – and it can only be destroyed by cooking foods thoroughly. You can’t tell if the turkey is done just by looking at it. Use a food thermometer to be sure (temperatures above 140 degrees).
  • It is okay to thaw a turkey in its original plastic for up to two days. After that, move the turkey to another container such as plastic wrap or foil. Store the thawing turkey in the fridge, rather than on the kitchen counter.
  • Remove all stuffing from the turkey before refrigerating leftover meat. Keep the stuffing, gravy or broth in a separate container.

Symptoms of food poisoning include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and sometimes fever. Some symptoms may happen soon after eating and some make take hours to days to develop. To report possible food poisoning illness, contact the Vermont Department of Health at 1-800-439-8550.

For questions about poisons on Thanksgiving and any other day of the year, call the Northern New England Poison Center (NNEPC) at 1-800-222-1222. The NNEPC provides immediate treatment advice for poisonings, as well as information about poisons and poison prevention, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Gayle Finkelstein is the Northern New England Poison Center Vermont Educator, and Poison Outreach Educator at the UVM Medical Center’s Community Health Improvement Office.

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