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Four simple steps will help ensure your holidays are magical instead of miserable

PROVO, UTAH (November 24, 2014) -- As the winter holidays -- and the related family gatherings and food preparations -- approach, Utah's public health departments are urging Utahns to take extra precaution when preparing and serving food this season.

"Foodborne illness can be deadly, and it's entirely preventable," said Sam Marsden, Utah County Health Food Safety manager. "Proper food handling will help ensure your holiday isn't ruined by illness."

Food safety experts say that prevention measures are key to keeping holiday chefs and their families safe from foodborne illness. Remembering four simple steps will help ensure your holidays are magical instead of miserable:

  • Clean: Wash hands and sanitize food preparation surfaces often
  • Separate: Don't cross contaminate; keep raw meat and poultry (and their juices) away from other foods
  • Cook: Cook your turkey to a proper internal temperature, and check with a food thermometer -- whole turkeys should reach 165 degrees Farenheit.
  • Chill: Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, never on the kitchen counter, and refrigerate prepared foods within two hours of cooking

"Don't rely on the food preparation and storage practices you grew up with," said Marsden. "We've learned a lot about how to better protect ourselves from food- related illness since Grandma's day."

Health officials say that what many people call "stomach flu" or a "24-hour bug" is actually often food poisoning. Illness can range from mild nausea to a serious condition requiring medical treatment and hospitalization. Young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe, life-threatening illness.

For more in-depth food safety information, see the attached Four Steps to Holiday Food Safety. If you suspect you may have food poisoning, report it to the Utah County Health Department at 801-851-7525.

The Utah County Health Department is committed to promoting the health of our community by preventing avoidable disease and injury by monitoring the health of our community, responding to public health emergencies, and assuring conditions in which people can be healthy. For information on UCHD programs or services, please visit www.UtahCountyHealth.org or call 801-851-7000. You can also now follow the UCHD at www.FaceBook.com/uchealth, www.instagram.com/UtahCountyHealthDept, www.twitter.com/uchd, or www.pinterest.com/uchd. The UCHD is a partner with Utah's Public Health Departments.