Why you need to keep an eye on your refrigerator’s temperature ahead of Thanksgiving

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It’s a horror story no Thanksgiving cook ever wants to experience. Britanny Saunier, executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education, said on Thanksgiving Day, her refrigerator went out and all of her food was ruined.

She said because of the subtle changes in the refrigerator’s temperature, she didn’t realize it until it was too late.

“I looked at my refrigerator thermometer and it was around 53 degrees. That’s when I knew for sure. This food’s not safe to eat. I could get sick if I still cooked this.”

The temperature should’ve been 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Saunier, who heads the nonprofit organization that helps households prevent food poisoning, said anything between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit means you are in the danger zone, “which means bacteria can multiply at a very quick rate,” and puts you at risk for getting sick.

In addition to making sure you’re using your refrigerator thermometer, Saunier encourages cooks to do preparation with their refrigerator before cooking a holiday meal. Make sure your refrigerator is prepared to hold a lot of food, she said.

“If you’re buying that large turkey, chicken or ham, or whatever you’re preparing, you want to put it on a tray on the bottom shelf of your fridge.”

You don’t want the raw meat dripping on your other foods and causing cross contamination.

When using knives and cutting boards, Saunier said, you want to make sure you’re keeping your meats and other proteins away from your fresh produce. If you have one trusty knife, make sure you wash your knife with soap and water before moving from food group to food group, she said.

You may want to keep out your Thanksgiving spread for several hours for guests who come and go. Be sure to keep foods that are meant to be hot, hot by using crockpots for hot foods, and keep foods cold that are meant to be cold, cold by placing ice under those foods.

She also said food should be put away within two hours of service or bacteria can begin to multiply.

What are some of the signs you may have food poisoning? Saunier says sometimes you don’t know right away. She said there are certain bugs that take about two days to show up in your system.

“Oftentimes, it’s not the last thing you ate. It could be something from a few days before.”

She says signs of food poisoning include diarrhea, cramps or vomiting. If you suspect you have food poisoning, she says to seek medical attention right away.

To find out more, go to Partnership for Food Safety Education’s website.

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