University of Maryland Extension

Updated November 23, 2020: Thanksgiving

(Washington, D.C., November 23, 2020) – This week, Americans will enjoy a delicious meal on Thanksgiving Day with family and friends – either in person or virtually. Taking the necessary steps toward safe food handling and sanitation will help protect you and your loved ones this year. To make sure your Thanksgiving meal is prepared safely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering food safety advice to reduce foodborne illness, including on Thanksgiving Day.
“Our data shows that consumers can reduce their likelihood of foodborne illness by focusing on good hand hygiene and other food safety practices,” said Dr. Mindy Brashears, USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety. “As home chefs nationwide prepare their Thanksgiving meals, proper handwashing and avoiding cross contamination in the kitchen are critical to keeping your loved ones safe.”
Wash Your Hands
The first step to safe food preparation is to clean. In recent USDA observational research, participants did not even attempt to wash their hands, or did not wash their hands sufficiently about 95 percent of the time before and during meal preparation.
Handwashing is recommended to control the spread of germs, especially before, during and after preparing food (especially after touching raw meat or poultry).
Thawing the Turkey
Frozen turkeys should never be thawed on the counter or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. The best method to thaw the turkey is in the refrigerator since this allows slow, safe thawing. When thawing turkey in the refrigerator, allow about 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. Once thawed, it can remain safe in the fridge for one to two days. Other safe thawing methods include a cold-water bath or the microwave. If you use either of these thawing methods, you should cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. If using the cold-water method, allow 30 minutes per pound, and submerge the turkey in its original wrapping to avoid cross-contamination. If thawing in the microwave, make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions when defrosting the turkey.
Avoid Cross-Contamination
In a recent study, USDA found 60 percent of kitchen sinks were contaminated with germs after participants washed or rinsed poultry. To avoid this cross-contamination risk, do not wash your turkey. But if you do wash your turkey or put your turkey in the sink, you need to fully clean and sanitize your sink. Cleaning and sanitizing is a two-step process. To clean, rub down surfaces — including the sink, cutting boards, and counter tops — with soap and hot water, and then sanitize them with a cleaning solution to remove any residual germs you cannot see. You can use a homemade solution of one tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in one gallon of water. Let air dry.
Do Not Stuff the Turkey
Although many choose to stuff the turkey, USDA does not recommend doing so for optimal safety. Instead, cook stuffing outside of the turkey cavity to reduce cross-contamination risk. This will also allow your turkey to cook more quickly.
Cooking to the Safe Temperature
A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit as measured by a food thermometer in three parts: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing, and the innermost part of the thigh. Even if the turkey has a pop-up temperature indicator, you should still use a food thermometer to check that the bird has reached at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit in those three places. If you are planning to cook a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey, check the temperature with the food thermometer (165 degrees Fahrenheit) at the thickest part the breast. All previously cooked side dishes should be reheated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit as measured by a food thermometer as well.
The Two-Hour Rule
To make sure food stays safe to eat through the weekend, all perishable items should be refrigerated within two hours of when they finished cooking. After two hours, perishable food will be in the Danger Zone (40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) too long, which is when bacteria can multiply quickly and cause the food to become unsafe. If foods have been left out for more than two hours they should be discarded.
Store and Reheat Leftovers
Store leftovers in small, shallow containers in the refrigerator until the Monday after Thanksgiving Day or in the freezer for later use. Shallow containers help cool leftovers more quickly than storing them in large containers. Reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the internal temperature of the food in several places with a food thermometer after allowing a resting time.
You Have Questions, USDA Has Answers
For advice about how to safely prepare the turkey and all other menu items this Thanksgiving Day, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety expert at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. If you need last-minute help on Thanksgiving Day, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Visit or follow USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Twitter @USDAFoodSafety or on Facebook at for the latest food safety tips.
NOTE: Access FSIS news releases and other information at



Updated August 18, 2020:Food Safety & COVID-19 Resources

COVID-19 Resources

The following resources provide best practices for preparing for COVID-19 and managing risk for individuals at home and for food environments such as restaurants, grocery stores, food banks, gardens and farms. These resources are based on guidance and best practices as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO) and the best available science. All items are peer reviewed by an expert panel, and many are translated into Spanish. Check back frequently for updates to the guidance.

National up-to-date webpages:

State up-to-date webpages:

Home and Community


Hand Hygiene

Cloth Face Coverings

Cleaning and Disinfecting


Planning a Mass Feeding Event

Grocery Shopping

 Dining Out 

Social Media Images

 Grocery Shopping

Dining out

Infosheets: Spanish

Inocuidad de los Alimentos, Salir a Cenar y Hacer Compras

 Social Media Images: Spanish

Hojas Informativas del Servicio de Alimentos

Hojas Informativas de la Tienda de Comestibles

Hojas Informativas del Banco de Alimentos

Cultivar, Jardines y Producir Hojas Informativas Agricultura y Venta Directa al Consumidor

Jarineria y Productos

 Inocuidad de los Alimentos, Salir a Cenar y Hacer Compras

Revestimientos Faciales de Tela

 Foodservice Infosheets – Haitian Creole

Farms, Gardens and Produce Infosheets – Haitian Creole

Infosheet: Chinese


Follow the Division of Extension - University of Wisconsin-Madison Blog

Infosheets: Food Bank

Retail Food Environments

5/27/2020-FDA: Voluntary Reporting of Temporary Closures or Requesting Assistance for FDA-Regulated Food Establishments During COVID-19 Pandemic 

5/22/2020- FDA: FDA Announces Temporary Flexibility Policy Regarding Certain Labeling Requirements for Foods for Humans During COVID-19 Pandemic

Retail Signs-These signs can be downloaded and filled with business specific information

 Infosheets: Foodservice

Infosheets: Grocery Store

Farms, Gardens, and Produce

As the State of Maryland continues its unprecedented response to COVID-19, the Maryland Department of Agriculture is emphasizing the need for businesses involved in the state’s food supply chain to continue production. For more information visit: Maryland Dept. of Agriculture

June-MDA Agricultural Site COVID-19 Guidance

May 2020- FDA: Temporary Policy During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Regarding the Qualified Exemption from the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption

Farming and Direct to Consumer Sales

Farmers Markets

Pick Your Own (PYO) or U-Pick operations

Gardening and Produce

Bulk Meat Sales

Follow our Grower Newsletter

Online Resources: Farm

 Contributing partners

  • University of Maryland Extension
  • University of Maryland, College Park 
  • NC State Extension (References-COVID-19 Food Safety Resources)
  • Purdue University
  • Louisiana State University
  • Division of Extension - University of Wisconsin-Madison 

2020 GAP

Baltimore County- 3/17/20 Cockeysville, MD Register (postponed)

EMAIL Shauna Henley & Angela Ferelli for more information regarding the workshop. &

Attending a Basic GAP course may be right for you if...

  • You are thinking about pursuing GAP certification for some or all parts of your operation

  • You are interested in developing a good safety plan to increase operational efficiency and build a food safety culture

  • You are looking to learn more about how microbes live and interact with farm environments, or

  • You have a potential buyer that requires GAP certification

What you’ll get from this training

  •  Tips on how to implement practices to minimize your food safety risk during growing, harvesting, holding, and packing your product

  •  Practice conducting risk assessments

  •  Practice writing Standard Operating Procedures

  •  Assistance on writing your food safety plan

  •  A Maryland Department of Agriculture GAP training certificate

Register: Basic GAP

Cost: $15-20 (lunch and certificate)

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline: 1-888-MPHotline

The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline can personally answer your food safety questions on weekdays year-round.

The Hotline receives more than 80,000 calls yearly. This toll-free telephone service, which began July 1, 1985, helps prevent foodborne illness by answering questions about the safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.

Food Safety Questions? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline

If you have a question about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

The Hotline is open year-round Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET (English or Spanish). Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. Check out the FSIS Web site at

Send email questions to

Ask Karen! ( | ) 
FSIS’ automated response system can provide food safety information 24/7 and a live chat during Hotline hours. Mobile phone users can access

**Our website is currently being updated.  As we slowly build our website, we will have trusted (peer reviewed) fact sheets and advice to reduce your family’s chances of experiencing a foodborne illness.  Thank you for your patience.**


Food Safety
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