Make sure you handle that bird the right way!

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More than 46-million turkeys will be cooked this week for Thanksgiving according to the USDA. 

The Department of Agriculture wants to encourage food safety so leftovers are all that linger after the traditional meal. 

USDA Food Safety Expert Janice Lopez-Munoz says always clean your hands and surfaces while prepping, but don’t clean the turkey.

“If you wash the turkey actually you are increasing the risk of cross-contamination to your kitchen, your hands, your sink, everywhere they are or other foods that are already prepared,” says Lopez-Munoz.

Lopez-Munoz says cooking your turkey thoroughly is the best way to make sure your bird is free of bacteria. She says use a thermometer and make sure that the turkey is at least 165 degrees or higher.

When it comes to your chilled items on the menu you want to take precautions with them as well. Lopez-Munoz says to watch the clock on how long they are out of the refrigerator. 

“You don’t want any of your perishable food to be in the danger zone, or room temperature for more than two hours,” according to Lopez-Munoz.

She also recommends when it comes to defrosting any frozen items or perishables, that you do so in the refrigerator, never leave them out to thaw in the sink or on the kitchen counter.

Raw meat and poultry can be a culprit of foodborne illness so Lopez-Munoz recommends that you carefully trace the path of raw meat while prepping and clean accordingly. 

“Make sure that you use separate cutting boards, plates, utensils, to avoid any cross-contamination between raw meat, poultry, and the foods that are ready to eat,” says Lopez-Munoz.

If you have any food safety questions you can call the USDA hotline weekdays from 9-5 and on Thanksgiving Day 7 am until 1 pm at 1-888-674-6854 or visit online at Foodsafety.gov.