Time, Temperature and Cleanliness are Top Priorities for Safely Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner and Leftovers

The National Restaurant Association Shares its Top Five Food Safety Tips for the Holiday

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — What is the key ingredient that’s often missing on Thanksgiving? An understanding of food safety principles that can prevent foodborne illness tops the list. To combat these common mistakes, ServSafe® and the National Restaurant Association are sharing their top five food safety tips. 

“Thanksgiving is a holiday centered around food and spending quality time together. The last thing we want to do is mar that with a foodborne illness because we left food sitting on the counter for too long,” said Patrick Guzzle, vice president, Food Science at the National Restaurant Association. “Our research shows that, while consumers are confident that they know how to safely handle raw meat, only half know the proper internal temperature for cooked poultry, like chicken and turkey.”

The top five tips for a safe and healthy Thanksgiving include:

  1. Don’t leave food out for more than four hours. Put away food quickly once the meal is complete to ensure harmful bacteria doesn’t start to grow. More than two-thirds of consumers are unaware of this time cap, with 57 percent thinking the max time is two hours, resulting in food waste, and 13 percent leaving food out for too long.
  2. Avoid cross contamination. This includes keeping raw meats separate from other foods and cleaning surfaces between prepping each dish. Additionally, you should consider if any guests have food allergies and how you’re going to manage those. According to Association research, more than 3 in 4 people don’t know the most common allergens, and more than half don’t know that peanuts are an allergen. Foods that contain a food allergen should also be prepared in a way that prevents cross contact. 
  3. Hold food at the right temperature so bacteria cannot grow to unsafe levels. Keep hot food hot (135°F or 57°C or higher) and cold food cold (41°F or 5°C or lower). Data from the National Restaurant Association shows that only one-third of consumers know that 41°F is the maximum holding temperature for potentially hazardous foods.
  4. Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds using soap and warm water. Insist that guests offering to help prepare food or bring dishes out to the dining table wash their hands as well and use clean utensils for serving food.
  5. Cooked foods can be stored in the refrigerator for seven days but indefinitely in the freezer. That said, it’s important to remember that foods, especially meat, will experience freezer burn after some time and not taste as good. If purchasing a pre-cooked turkey, put it in the refrigerator as close to Thanksgiving as possible. The seven-day rule applies as soon as the meat defrosts, so this will help maximize the seven days after Thanksgiving.   

“The CDC estimates that 48 million people become sick from foodborne illness each year. Time, temperature and cleanliness should be your three top considerations for both preparing food and storing leftovers to keep your guests safe,” Guzzle added. “With these considerations and proper planning around allergens, everyone can better enjoy their holiday and leftover turkey sandwiches, cranberry sauce and apple pie.”

The National Restaurant Association surveyed 2,204 adults in the United States from August 29September 1, 2023.

About the National Restaurant Association
Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises nearly 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of more than 15 million employees. Together with 52 State Associations, we are a network of professional organizations dedicated to serving every restaurant through advocacy, education, and food safety. We sponsor the industry’s largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF’s ProStart). For more information, visit Restaurant.org and find WeRRestaurants on TwitterFacebook and YouTube.

SOURCE National Restaurant Association

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