Thanksgiving: Keeping it Healthy for Everyone

Thanksgiving is almost here and across the country cooks are gearing up for one of the most spectacular feasts of the year. But as food preparations begin, is there enough focus on holiday food safety?

Last year at this time the Water Quality & Health Council conducted a survey that found Americans are more concerned about being around an annoying relative during the holidays than they are about getting sick from improperly prepared holiday food. I can’t help you with cranky Uncle Joe, but I do have some simple tips on keeping the holiday meal safe for him and everyone else around the table.

Food Safety: 5 Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

  1. Clean – Wash all food contact surfaces with hot, soapy water followed by disinfecting with 1/2 tablespoon chlorine bleach in 1/2 gallon of water. Do this before and after working with raw foods, especially meat and poultry.
  2. Wash Hands – Thoroughly wash hands with warm, soapy water before and after all food preparation and after handling turkey.
  3. Compartmentalize – Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  4. Cook – to kill any bacteria that might be present, thoroughly cook meat, poultry and eggs to the appropriate temperature.
  5. Chill – Refrigerate leftover perishables at 40 degrees within two hours after cooking or serving.

Bonus Tip: Are You Transporting a Dish? The food editor of offers tips on traveling with food this Thanksgiving. Among the “safest bets for road travel” are cranberry sauce (the high acid content of cranberries is unfriendly to bacteria), rolls and pies (excluding custard and pumpkin pies). For road trips longer than one hour, pack all food items in a cooler with ice. Dishes such as casseroles that are meant to be served hot should be prepared the day before, refrigerated and then transported in ice.

Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving or contributing a specialty dish this year, the members of the Water Quality & Health Council want to wish you a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving. Oh, and regarding Uncle Joe, maybe I do have a tip: Why not spend a few minutes with him and see if there’s something positive hiding under his gruff exterior? Trying to find out what Uncle Joe enjoys is always a good way to start! You may be pleasantly surprised.

For more information on food safety, please visit

Linda Golodner is President Emeritus of the National Consumers League and Vice Chair of the Water Quality & Health Council.