David Letterman, host of the “Late Show with David Letterman” television program, is one of Indiana’s most famous celebrities. A regular feature on Letterman’s show is the Top 10 list. As a tribute to Indiana’s favorite son, here is a “Top 10 List of Things People Can Do to Make Their Holiday Meals Safer.”

10. Read the labels.

Many people, both adults and children, are allergic to certain foods and ingredients such as milk, eggs, wheat, soybeans, tree nuts, peanuts, fish and crustacean shellfish. You should know what ingredients are in the foods you prepare and be ready to share this information with your guests who may have food allergies.v

9. Before baking a whole turkey...

...be certain to remove the bag containing the neck and giblets from inside the turkey.

If you don’t find the bag at first, keep looking. It is likely to be in there somewhere.

8. When your meal is finished...

...place leftovers in the refrigerator as quickly as possible. Never leave cooked meats and other potentially hazardous foods out for more than 2 hours. To promote cooling, place food in shallow pans and break up large food items, such as a ham or meat roast, into smaller portions by slicing them.

7. Reheat leftovers in small batches.

You want to have foods pass through the Temperature Danger Zone of 41ºF to 135ºF (5°C to 57°C) as few times as possible. Therefore, you should cool and reheat foods as few times as possible.

6. Wash raw produce

Especially ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, thoroughly to remove soil and other contaminants from their surface. Produce can be contaminated with chemicals, such as pesticides, and germs that can cause foodborne illness.

5. Thaw frozen turkeys in the refrigerator

...and allow plenty of time for the bird to thaw. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends allowing approximately 24 hours in a refrigerator set at 40°F (4.4°C) or below for every 5 pounds of whole turkey weight. Place the turkey on a tray on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator and keep the turkey in its original wrapper so juices don't leak onto other foods.

4. Prevent cross-contamination...

...in your kitchen by cleaning and sanitizing the surfaces of equipment, countertops, and utensils that touch raw food and ready-to-eat foods. Use hot, soapy water to clean with and a chlorine bleach solution (50 parts per million strength) to disinfect surfaces.

3. Cook your turkey to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74ºC).

For added safety, consumers may choose to cook their turkey to 180ºF (82ºC). Check the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For best results, the tip of the meat thermometer should be placed in the thigh muscle just above and beyond the lower part of the thighbone but not touching the bone. It is not recommended that you cook stuffing inside your turkey. However, if you choose to do so, you should make certain the temperature of the stuffing reaches 165°F (74ºC).

2. Keep potentially hazardous foods/time-temperature control for safety foods (PHF/TCS) out of the Temperature Danger Zone as much as possible.

You should keep hot PHF/TCS foods at 135ºF (57ºC) or above and cold PHF/TCS foods at 41°F (5°C) or below. This includes during the time you bring foods and ingredients for your meals home from the market.

1. Wash your hands frequently when preparing meals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says proper hand washing is the most effective way to stop the spread of germs that cause infections. Hand washing also helps to prevent cross contamination. Be sure to wash your hands after touching raw animal foods (i.e. the turkey); going to the bathroom; coughing, sneezing, and eating; and after touching any object that may be contaminated.

Preparing meals during the holidays can be a wonderful experience, yet daunting for those planning them. The goal is to have a safe and delicious meal, and if planned and executed properly, it can be a fun and memorable experience.

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