Germs Invading Your Thanksgiving Dinner

When you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner you may not be thinking about all the germs and bacteria that could be in your holiday feast.

A large variety of foods, cooking styles and germs combine to fill the table on Thanksgiving. But we have some ways to make sure you just have a full belly instead of an upset one.

First... Prepare the turkey.

WTAMU Microbiologist Dr. Carolyn Bouma says, "You should put it in the sink, filled with cold water. Make sure you change the water every half hour."

Cleaning up can fill your sponge with bacteria, but there's a quick fix.

"Get it damp with some water and put it in the microwave for a minute to a minute and a half. Basically that heats up the water that is in the sponge, creates some steam and helps kill the bacteria that is in there."

Food is only meant to be kept out about two hours after eating... If you want to snack just make sure you follow the rules.

"The general rule of thumb is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. There is kind of a temperature range in between say 40 degrees and 140 degrees fahrenheit were bacteria can multiple very rapidly."

When your done... Don't stuff your fridge, it can cause your food to not get as cold as it should be.

"Try to leave some space around the edges and sides and the back so the air can circulate, because that is how your refrigerator works. The best way to package your left overs is in shallow containers because they have a greater surface area and they chill down more quickly."

One more clean up tip....

Mix a quart of water and a teaspoon of bleach together and pour it down your sink drain to clean out the pipes after your done cooking.

Here are some extra tips:

US Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Nutrition


  • Wash your hands after touching raw meat or poultry, before you touch anything else. Wash with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don't put cooked food on a dish that held raw food. Don't allow raw meat, poultry or fish (or their juices) to come in contact with other foods.
  • At a family meal, picnic or party, leave food on the table for no longer than two hours.
  • Put leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as you finish eating. Consume leftovers within three to five days.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees or lower. Freezing stops bacterial growth, although it may not kill bacteria.
  • Thaw foods in the refrigerator, microwave, or in a sealed plastic bag submerged in cold water (change the water every 30 minutes). Follow the directions on the food package. Marinate in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. Don't use marinade as a dip or sauce if it has been in contact with the raw meat.
  • Use cutting boards made of hard wood or non-porous materials such as plastic that are free of cracks and crevices. Wash your cutting board and knife after using them for raw foods.
  • Use separate utensils for cooking and serving raw meat, poultry or fish.
  • Scrub all fruits and vegetables with water. Wash melons before cutting. Remove the outer leaves of leafy greens.
  • Cook meats to the proper internal temperature: ground beef, 160 degrees; poultry, 180 degrees.
  • Raw eggs, and foods containing raw eggs, may be contaminated with Salmonella. Keep eggs refrigerated; cook them until both the yolk and white are firm. Don't consume cookie dough made with raw eggs. Use pasteurized eggs to make eggnog.
  • You can sanitize your sink drain and disposal using a solution of 1 quart of water containing 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach.
  • Wash cutting boards with hot water, soap and a scrub brush. They can be washed in the dishwasher or sanitized with a solution of 1 quart of water containing 1 teaspoon of bleach.
  • Bleach, commercial kitchen cleaners and hot soapy water are best for cleaning the kitchen.