RENO, NEV. – With the holiday season here, the Washoe County Health District reminds consumers it is important to handle food safely to prevent food-borne illnesses.  
Keep hands and food contact surfaces clean; wash them often: 

Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food (especially raw foods), after using the toilet, after changing diapers and after handling pets.  Dry hands with a clean, single-use paper towel.  People with cuts or skin infections on their hands should not prepare food. 
Thoroughly clean all work surfaces, utensils and dishes with hot soapy water and rinse with hot water before and after each use.  Sanitize surfaces with a bleach/water solution (at least one tablespoon per gallon of water) after rinsing, especially if contacted with raw meats.  Knives, cutting boards and meat grinders should be washed thoroughly (in the dishwasher, for example) before using them for other foods. 
Anybody who is sick, especially with vomiting and diarrhea, should refrain from attending social functions and from preparing or handling food to prevent disease transmission. 

Keep foods separate; don’t cross contaminate: 

Always wash fruits and vegetables in clean sinks and keep produce away from raw meats, poultry, eggs, fish and any other raw animal product. 
When tasting food, ladle a small amount of it into a small dish and taste with a clean spoon.  Remove the dish and spoon from the area and clean when finished. 
If you wash your turkey or other meat products in your kitchen sink before cooking, ALWAYS clean and sanitize the sink and area around it because water and meat juices can splatter and spread contaminants in your kitchen. 

Refrigerate and thaw foods properly before cooking: Refrigerate or freeze turkey and other meats promptly after purchase.  Prevent meat juices from spilling on and contaminating other foods or surfaces both at the market and at home.  Refrigeration should be kept at 41 degrees or colder. All food in a freezer should be frozen solid. 

Thaw a frozen turkey inside the refrigerator. Thawing a moderate-sized turkey in this manner may take two to four days.  If time does not permit a gradual thaw, place the frozen turkey under cold running water — not hot or warm — until the meat is soft to the touch. 

Cook foods to proper temperatures: 

Turkey should be placed immediately in a preheated oven set no lower than 325 degrees. Turkey and other poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees for 15 seconds to kill pathogens that may be present. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure that meat is thoroughly cooked.  To accurately measure the temperature, insert a thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey thigh, but not against the bone.  Steaks and roasts should be cooked to at least 145 degrees for 15 seconds and ground meat should be cooked to at least 155 degrees for 15 seconds. 
It is recommended that stuffing is cooked in a separate container and not inside the turkey. Stuffing, whether cooked inside a meat product or in a separate container, must reach 165 degrees for 15 seconds.   
Leftovers should be chilled immediately. When reheated, they should be heated to at least 165 degrees throughout. 
Foods cooked or reheated in microwaves should be stirred or turned occasionally to ensure that all parts of the food are thoroughly cooked. After cooking in microwave, let stand for 2 minutes to allow heat to spread through food item.  If using frozen meat, first microwave the meat until completely thawed, then follow by cooking.  If microwaving is not possible, then allow at least one-and-a-half times the usual cooking time to ensure that the meat is sufficiently cooked throughout.   

Refrigerate leftovers after cooking and serving: 

Turkey should be refrigerated one of two ways: within two hours after it is cooked; or right after cooking, the turkey should be de-boned, sliced or pulled into pieces no more than 2 1/2 inches thick and refrigerated in shallow containers.  Store the meat, stuffing and stock in separate shallow containers in the refrigerator or freezer.  
If properly wrapped, leftover meat may be safely consumed after being frozen for one to three months. 
Leftovers should be discarded after 7 days. 
Keep refrigerated all cream, custard and meringue pies and any other foods with custard filling, except when being served. 

Resources for information on food safety can be found on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website at: 
An educational video on Holiday Food Safety can be viewed at: