Food Safety Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson encourages residents to stay healthy this Thanksgiving by following the Health Division’s four basic steps of food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

“Oakland County’s Health Division offers these safety guidelines to help prevent harmful bacteria from making your loved ones ill this holiday season,” Patterson said. “Remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.”

Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. On the buffet table, keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays. Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice and replenishing ice as it melts. Otherwise, use smaller serving dishes and exchange with cold dishes of food from the refrigerator at least every two hours.

Here is a look at the Health Division’s four basic steps of food safety in detail:


  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Keep food preparation surfaces clean.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water and use a brush to remove any dirt so bacteria 
cannot spread from the outside in.
  • Avoid washing meats, poultry, or eggs.

Separate – Don’t Cross Contaminate

  • Secure meats, poultry or seafood in plastic bags to keep the juices contained.
  • Wash all plates, utensils and cutting boards that held raw meat, poultry or seafood before 
reusing for perishable or cooked food.
  • The juices of raw meat or poultry should never come in contact with cooked meat or other 
ready-to-eat foods.


  • Meat, poultry, and seafood should be cooked for a long enough time at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
  • To check the temperature of a turkey, stick the thermometer into the inner most part of the thigh and wing and into the thickest part of the breast. Turkey’s should be cooked according to package directions or at a minimum when internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Bring sauces, soups and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating them.


  • Refrigerate foods and leftovers within two hours of serving to avoid bacterial growth. Cold foods should be stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
  • Defrost foods in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Cook foods thawed under cold running water or in the microwave immediately.
  • Typical symptoms of foodborne illness include stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms are not usually long-lasting in healthy people, but foodborne illness can be severe and even life-threatening to older adults, infants, young children, pregnant women, or people with HIV/AIDS, cancer or any condition that weakens the immune system.
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