Thanksgiving Food Safety

Tips for Safely Cooking Your Thanksgiving Turkey

St. Petersburg, FL
November 12, 2019

Download our Turkey Thawing Times chart here.

Florida Food Safety Systems realizes that as Thanksgiving approaches, cooking the traditional turkey dinner can make even the most seasoned home chef anxious. There are five main things that everyone should remember when it comes to Turkey Safety in their home kitchen:

Safely Thaw Your Turkey
Safely Handle Your Turkey
Safely Prepare Stuffing
Safely Cook Your Turkey
Safe Storage of Leftovers


Turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature while thawing. A frozen turkey is safe as long as it is frozen. As soon as you begin to thaw the turkey, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again.

A package of frozen meat or poultry left thawing on the counter more than 2 hours is not at a safe temperature. Even though the center of the package may still be frozen, the outer layer of the food is in the “Danger Zone” between 40 and 140 °F — at a temperature where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly.



Raw poultry can contaminate anything it touches with harmful bacteria. There are four steps to follow to ensure food safety – clean, seperate, cook, and chill – to prevent the spread of bacteria. 

    • CLEAN = Wash your hands and surfaces often. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food AND before eating. We recommend disinfecting wipes (such as Clorox brand) closeby for wiping surfaces while preparing food, but if you must use a spray bottle of disinfectant use disposable paper towels, not washable linens. Always be sure to wash your utensils, cutting boards, countertops and any other surfaces that have come in contact with the turkey or other raw meats with hot, soapy water.
    • SEPERATE = DO NOT CROSS CONTAMINATE!! The only way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria to ready-to-eat foods is to keep Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs seperate from each other and other foods. We recommend using separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Also be sure to keep these foods seperate from other foods while grocery shopping and storing them in your fridge. 
    • COOK = All raw proteins must be cooked to a high enough temperature to kill the germs that can cause illness. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked (has reached the proper internal temperature) is to use a food thermometer. You can’t tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and/or texture.
        • 145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
        • 160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork
        • 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and TURKEY
        • 165°F for leftovers and casseroles
        • 145°F for fresh ham (raw)
        • 145°F for fish or cooked until the flesh is completely opaque
    • CHILL = Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. When serving food outdoors where the temperature is above 90°F, refrigerate leftovers within 1 hour.  There are three safe ways to thaw frozen food: in the refrigerator, in the sink while sitting in cold water bath, or in the microwave (follow manufactures directions for microwave defrosting). Never thaw foods on the counter, because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.



Cooking stuffing by itself in a covered dish makes it easy to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. If you want to put the stuffing in the turkey, you must do so just before cooking the turkey. You must use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches 165°F. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F and may then result in food poisoning. To allow the stuffing to cook more, you should wait 20 minutes after removing the bird from the oven before removing the stuffing from the turkey’s cavity. Visit the USDA website to learn more about how to properly prepare stuffing.



A completely thawed turkey should be cooked with the breast side up in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep with the oven temperature set to at least 325°F. Cooking times will vary depending on the weight of the turkey (see chart on this page for guidance. To make sure the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F, check by inserting a food thermometer into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint. Before you remove the stuffing and carve the turkey, be sure to let the turkey stand 20 minutes. Learn more about safe minimum cooking temperatures and how to use a food thermometer for turkey and other foods.



The second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning is from bacteria that grows in cooked foods that are left out at room temperature. Clostridium perfringens are bacteria that grows in cooked foods and these outbreaks occur most often in November and December. Quite often these outbreaks have been linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef. The major symptoms are vomiting and abdominal cramps within 6 to 24 hours after eating. Always refrigerate leftovers in your fridge at 40°F or colder as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation to prevent food poisoning.


For more information contact
Danielle Egger, owner Florida Food Safety Systems
(727) 440-5990

Hepatitis A Facts

Hepatitis A in the Tampa Bay Area – Facts & Resources

Click here to download this information in a pdf document suitable for printing.

St. Petersburg, FL
October 9, 2019

Florida Food Safety Systems has seen an increase in calls for information about Hepatitis A due to recent stories in the media. As a service to the community, we are providing this Hepatitis A Fact Sheet to help educate the public about the signs and symptoms, methods of transmission and how to contact the Department of Health for more information.

The Hepatitis A outbreak in Florida doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.  In August 2019, a public health emergency was issued for the state of Florida. According to the Florida Department of Health, from January 2019 through August 3, 2019, 2,413 hepatitis A cases have been reported.

Cases of Hepatitis A in the state of Florida have more than doubled since 2016-2017.


So, what exactly is Hepatitis A?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines Hepatitis A as a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV).

Hepatitis A is most commonly transmitted person-to-person via fecal-oral route or through consumption of contaminated food or water.

Hepatitis A is the only Hepatitis virus that is acute, meaning the disease is self-limiting and symptoms will subside after a couple of months, typically with no lifetime impact.  Adult symptoms of Hepatitis A include:

    • Stomach pain (usually below the ribs on the right side of the body)
    • Fatigue
    • Nausea
    • Diarrhea
    • Clay-colored stool
    • Dark urine
    • Joint pain
    • Anorexia
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

Most children under six years of age do not exhibit symptoms at all.

Antibodies produced in response to an infection last for life and protect against re-infection from the virus.

The virus takes an average of 28 days to incubate in the host’s body.


What are the risk factors for contracting Hepatitis A?

Anyone not vaccinated is at risk for Hepatitis A. Some factors increase the likelihood of contracting the virus, such as:

    • People traveling to countries where Hepatitis A is common
    • People using both injection and non-injection drugs
    • Men having sexual contact with men
    • People in direct contact with someone diagnosed as HAV positive
    • Caregivers of those with HAV
    • People working with non-human primates
    • People with compromised immune systems


Let’s take a deeper look into how Hepatitis A is spread.

According to the CDC, the virus is able to survive without a host for months.  Hepatitis A is cold-tolerant, meaning freezing will not kill the virus.  High temperatures (185°F or higher for at least one minute) have been shown to kill the virus.

Consuming raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated waters, raw produce, uncooked foods, drinking water, and foods that are not reheated after being in contact with an infected food handler may result in infection.

Because HAV takes approximately four weeks post-exposure to exhibit symptoms, determining a source may be challenging.

People are most highly contagious two weeks prior to exhibiting symptoms.  This poses a threat to highly susceptible populations and to those in the food service industry, as improper food handling (i.e. not washing hands or cooking foods to proper temperatures) is common.

But there is hope.  Unvaccinated people recently exposed to the virus are able to receive the vaccination within two weeks post exposure to prevent severe illness.


How is Hepatitis A transmission prevented?


The best way to prevent contracting Hepatitis A is to vaccinate.  The vaccine is a series of two shots; with the second dose administered about six months after the initial vaccine.

The other important thing everyone can do everyday to prevent the transmission of Hepatitis A is to practice good hand hygiene.  Hand washing should be done after using the restroom, before handling food, and after changing diapers.

Wash hands with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds.  Rinse, then use a paper towel to dry hands and turn off the faucet.

Food handlers should wash their hands again upon re-entry into the kitchen as good practice.


Just a few more important Hepatitis A tidbits you should know …

    • Hand sanitizer WILL NOT effectively kill the hepatitis A virus. The only way to practice proper hand hygiene is to WASH YOUR HANDS!
    • Oysters purchased from an unapproved source are more likely to carry the Hepatitis A virus. Why?  Oysters and other bivalves are filter feeders.  They eat whatever happens to settle in the sediment.  That may include viruses like HAV.  Oysters are not cooked to 185°F for at least one minute.  If you have a compromised immune system, it is advised that you not consume raw seafood.
    • If you or someone in your household has been diagnosed with Hepatitis A, and you work in the food service industry, you are required by law to report this information to your employer.
    • Restrooms in restaurants should be cleaned and sanitized at least once daily. According to the National Center for Biotechnology, the only sanitizers approved for reduction of the Hepatitis A virus is a solution of chlorine and water or a quaternary ammonium solution.  Both must remain on the surface for at least one minute to be effective.
    • Less than 5% of cases have been identified among food workers. To date, Florida Department of Health has not identified a case of hepatitis A transmission from a food worker to a restaurant patron.


Vaccine Information for those in Pinellas, Pasco & Hillsborough Counties


Pinellas County Department of Health is currently waiving the Hepatitis A vaccination fee for those working with highly susceptible populations and in who work in the food service industry. No appointment is needed. Please all ahead of time to ensure the vaccine is still available. The hours are 7:30AM to 5PM weekdays. Below is a list of locations offering vaccines.

  • Tarpon Springs: 301 S Disston Ave (Largo)
  • Clearwater: 310 N. Myrtle Ave
  • Mid-County: 8751 Ulmerton Rd, Largo
  • Pinellas Park: 6350 76th Ave. N
  • Petersburg: 205 Dr Martin Luther King Jr St N



Pasco County Department of Health currently does not offer free vaccinations, but has established a hotline for people who may have questions about hepatitis A. The number to call is (727) 619-0400.



Hillsborough County Department of Health is currently not offering free vaccinations.


For more information, contact:
Danielle Egger, owner Florida Food Safety Systems
(727) 440-5990