Health and Well-Being(Supplement)-Keep bacteria off your holiday table!

An ounce of prevention can keep foodborne bacteria from becoming an uninvited guest at your holiday table.

"Think sink, stove, and refrigerator," says Becky Gorham, RD, of the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "These kitchen staples are effective tools in preventing the growth of illness-causing bacteria."

Here what she recommends:

At the sink:

Wash hands before and after handling any food. Keep utensils, dishes, counters, cutting boards, sinks, sponges, and towels clean. Use two cutting boards, one for meat and one for other foods, to prevent cross-contamination.

In the stove:

Roast the turkey at 325° F or higher to minimize the time bacteria have to grow. If you are using a meat thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the thigh next to the body. Cook a whole turkey to an internal temperature of 180° F.

Use only pasteurized egg products and cooked ingredients, such as sautéed vegetables, cooked meats, and poached or sauteed oysters in stuffing.

Bake stuffing separately, or stuff the turkey just before roasting. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the stuffing is heated to at least 165° F before removing from oven. Immediately remove cooked stuffing from the bird.

In the refrigerator:

Keep thawing birds cold. Place the bird in a sealed, heavy plastic bag and change the water every 30 minutes. Avoid thawing any frozen meat at room temperature.

Store raw meats in sealed bags, on trays, on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator to prevent raw meat juices from contaminating other foods.

Remove turkey meat from the bone to speed cooling of leftovers and store in a shallow container.

Refrigerate turkey, stuffing, gravy and egg-based pies within two hours of cooking. Use leftover turkey within four days; stuffing and gravy within two days.

Avoid overloading the refrigerator. The main compartment should be a maximum of 40° F degrees to inhibit bacterial growth.