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Health department offers advice on keeping food safe for Thanksgiving

COLUMBIA, Mo.

Thanksgiving dinner means turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles and tons of food, usually sitting out for hours.

The Columbia/Boone County Health Department warns of two big mistakes that could lead to foodborne illnesses from the Thanksgiving meal.

Environmental health supervisor Kala Wekenborg-Tomka said there's a proper way to thaw the Thanksgiving meat, which will make sure it's safe to eat.

"If you're hosting the event that typically means that you are preparing the bulk of the meal, or the meat mainly, and sometimes we buy that turkey frozen or that ham frozen so thawing is a big issue," Wekenborg-Tomka said. "That turkey does not thaw quickly, so get that turkey out of your freezer probably at least three or four days ahead of time and put it in your refrigerator."

She said when thawing raw meat it is always important to put it in a pan or on a dish so it does not drip onto other foods in the refrigerator.

The department warns against leaving food out of its proper temperature range for more than four hours.

"Family functions and family feasts are sometimes extended periods of time," she said. "So there's potential for food to be left out for an extended period of time."

Wekenborg-Tomka said hot foods need to stay hot and cold foods need to stay cold to avoid time-temperature abuse.

"You can always put them out in some ice so they stay cold," she said. But food should not stay out of the fridge for longer than four hours.

If dairy products, meats, cooked vegetables or cut fruits are left out for more than four hours, the department said they should be thrown away.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48,000 people get sick, 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 people die each year from foodborne illnesses. 

ABC 17 News Investigates / Boone / Columbia / Columbia Video / News / Top Stories / Video

Zara Barker

Zara Barker is an anchor and investigative reporter for ABC 17 News. She anchors the Breaking News Desk during the morning newscast and anchors the 9 a.m. broadcast.

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