Health experts explain how to prevent foodborne illness during holidays

Health experts explain how to prevent foodborne illness during holidays
James C. Davis (Source: WALB)
James C. Davis (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - You probably have a refrigerator full of leftovers right now from your Thanksgiving meal.

But do you know how to properly re-heat those leftovers?

Or how long they'll last?

Dougherty County's Environmental Health Manager James C. Davis explains how to be "food safe" so you don't spend your holiday season in the hospital.

"People who get foodborne illness don't even realize that they have it," he said.

It's not something you want to think about during the holiday season: getting sick from your Thanksgiving meal.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans get sick from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

Preventing illness starts with four important steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

Clean your meats and produce thoroughly, separate cutting boards and dishes for raw meets and produce, cook them to a safe internal temperature, and chill your leftovers promptly.

Each step is extremely important in order to stay healthy.

Davis explained, "Typically the symptoms don't show up until a couple of hours, to a day later, sometimes two days later."

So after you've finished your Thanksgiving meal, now's the time to consider the food that's been sitting out on the table, or your leftovers.

"You want to minimize it to two hours before you get it back into the refrigerator," he said. "When you get up to four hours, you need to get back into the refrigerator fast. But once you go beyond six hours, toss it."

The longer the food sits out in room temperature, the more bacteria grows on the food.

And when you're putting away leftovers, make sure you wrap them tightly, or seal them in storage containers.

When you're reheating leftovers, Davis said, "Looks is not a good indicator of whether something is done."

Davis suggested using a meat thermometer to make sure your leftovers are being reheated to 165 degrees.

Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days.

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