Simple food tips will keep families safe during Thanksgiving holiday

There will be a lot of holiday cooking over the next few days and a lot of food carried to others’ homes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering some tips on how to keep your family safe and healthy during the holiday season. Nirav Shah is a food safety expert for the agency. He says the four steps to food safety are Cleaning, Separating, Cooking and Chilling.

For the Cooking step, Shah says you should cook your turkey until it has an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

And don’t leave food out for more than two hours.

If you are taking prepared foods on the road, the key is to get the food where it is going within two hours.

The goal is to keep the hot foods hot and the cold foods cold. And to get all the leftovers put away within two hours of it being placed out for eating.

As far as leftovers, he said if you are planning to eat it by Monday, then it can go in the refrigerator. Otherwise, freeze it for safety. The longest leftovers should be kept in the fridge is three to four days, he said.

If you have any questions, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is available by calling  1-888-674-6854. The hotline will be open on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.  According to the agency, the hotline has been in operation for 33 years and USDA staff have answered more than  3 million consumer questions.

You can also get your questions answered by visiting Ask Karen on the web.