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Thanksgiving Day Food Safety Tips

With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, many churches and nonprofit organizations are preparing to host and serve “turkey dinners” and other meals on-site. It is important to take the necessary safety precautions to minimize the risk of illness due to food-borne bacteria. If your church or other organization has a policy regarding food preparation, make sure all employees and volunteers have received training on those procedures prior to your Thanksgiving meal.

Here are some basic tips to help keep your food safe.

Preparing Your Kitchen

The first step in cooking a meal is to make sure all kitchen spaces and utensils are clean. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds both before and after preparing a meal. Clean cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water before and in between using each food item. Once the proper cleaning steps have been completed, your employees and volunteers can begin cooking.

Cooking the Turkey

For some, the best part of a Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide some safety tips on how to prepare, stuff and cook your turkey to perfection. During the process of making the meal, be sure that raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods are kept separated.

Serving Guests

When it is time to serve your members and guests, consider the following:

  • Do not mix new food with existing food in a buffet line.
  • Food should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above and cold foods at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
  • Use disposable gloves when handling ready-to-eat foods without utensils.
  • Store leftovers in containers that are covered and airtight; be sure to place them in the refrigerator or freezer immediately.

Protect those who visit your church / organization this holiday season by safely preparing and serving the food. By adopting food safety practices, the risk of food-borne illnesses will be reduced. For more information and tips on food safety, read the “Preparing, Serving, and Storing Food Safely” fact sheet from SafeChurch. Additionally, the USDA’s Food Service and Inspection website features some helpful information on Turkey Day Myths.

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