Many of us are planning on a low-key Thanksgiving this year, but you’re probably looking forward to a home-cooked meal with at least a few family members. And while food poisoning can happen any time, it’s more common when large amounts of food are prepared and then left out on a buffet for hours at a time.
The following foods are the most common culprits of food poisoning.
- Meats, such as chicken, turkey, beef, and pork – use a cooking thermometer, and get internal temps of meat dishes to the recommended level before consuming
- Seafood – these foods can contain norovirus and vibrio when undercooked
- Raw milk and cheese – these products are popular, but can carry bacteria that are especially harmful to those with weaker immune systems
- Eggs – cook them until whites and yolks are firm to avoid salmonella
- Raw flour – so yes, avoid raw cookie dough
- Fruits and vegetables – washing produce thoroughly is key to avoiding infections
- Raw sprouts – cook them thoroughly before consuming
While these foods are the most common culprits, due to their origins, improper kitchen practices can also introduce viruses and bacteria to any food.
For example, washing your produce thoroughly is key to removing pathogens. But if you then chop them with a knife that was previously used to cut meat, you will re-introduce bacteria to your fruits or veggies.
Cooking food to the recommended temperatures will kill any bacteria it might be harboring. But if you then leave the dish uncovered at room temperature for several hours, bacteria could be reintroduced to the food. And at warm room temperatures, pathogens can flourish.
Finally, and with particular regard to Thanksgiving dinner, we are all at risk of food-borne illness when multiple people serve themselves out of the same dish. If even one person is sick but pre-symptomatic, everyone who shares the meal could become infected. Remind guests to…
- Wash hands before eating
- Don’t dip into dishes with personal eating utensils
- Use a new plate when going back for seconds
- Avoid coughing or sneezing in the room where food is served
- Cover dishes while not serving
- Put food in the fridge within one hour of the meal’s end
- Avoid sharing any foods or utensils
We hope you have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. Pay attention to food safety and visit your doctor right away if you experience any concerning symptoms.