A home-cooked meal with family and friends is definitely something many of us are thankful for this week. But you'll want to make sure to keep a few things in mind as you prepare your holiday feast.

Mom always said "wash your hands" before dinner, but it's even more important before preparing dinner.

The order you prepare your food in is important. You want to take care of any fruits and vegetables before you turn your attention to the turkey, or any poultry or meat for that matter. Epidemiologist Juan Suarez stated, "You may be preparing raw meat and cutting the raw meat on the surface with a knife…you may not realize you put your raw lettuce on that surface to prepare a salad."

The right food order can be an important step to keeping the bacteria out or, at least, under control. According to Eric Myers of the Virginia Department of Health, "bacterial growth is geometric. So you have 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 - within an hour or two you can have hundreds of thousands; couple of hours - potentially millions. You don't want to underestimate bacteria."

A simple digital thermometer can be one of the best investments you make in your kitchen. Make sure your turkey is cooked thoroughly; take it to a temperature of 165 degrees.

The Virginia Department of Health has published Thanksgiving food safety guidelines with some simple steps to make sure your guests get nothing more than a good meal and don't leave with E. coli, salmonella or another food borne illness. 

Reported by Steve Rappaport
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