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Food Safety Information

Prevent food poisoning and keep your family safe!

Food Safety

Don’t Let Food Poisoning Make Your Thanksgiving A Turkey

Thanksgiving Food safety isn’t on your holiday to-do list? Maybe it should be. Incorrectly prepared or improperly stored food can be dangerous and even life-threatening, especially for older adults, young children and pregnant women. Typical symptoms of food borne illness are stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, and usually start a few days after the contaminated food is consumed. Don’t send your guests home with an unpleasant culinary surprise. Knox County Health Department would like to pass along these quick food safety tips from the Food and Drug Administration.

Clean and Separate:
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food. Use warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wash food contact surfaces such as cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops after preparing each food item and before beginning the next item. 
  • Use separate cutting boards for foods that will be cooked, such as meat and seafood, and ready-to-eat foods such as raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Rinse fruit and vegetables thoroughly and use a scrub brush to remove surface dirt.
  • Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking. It will more likely spread bacteria. Keep raw meats, poultry and seafood away from foods that won’t be cooked, both at the store and at home.
  • Do not put cooked meat back on the same plate that has held raw meat.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure that meat has reached a safe internal temperature. Thermometers are available just about everywhere for $5 or less. To check a turkey for doneness, insert a food thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast, but not touching the bone. The turkey is done when the temperature reads 165 degrees. Stuffing inside the bird should be 165 degrees.
  • Use the two-hour rule. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of serving. If necessary, set the oven timer when you sit down to eat to remind you when to put away the leftovers.
  • Your refrigerator should be set no higher than 40 degrees and the freezer at 0 degrees. If you load hot casseroles and gravies into the fridge, it will struggle to keep the correct temperature. Use an appliance thermometer (available for about $5 in the housewares section of most stores) to check periodically for proper cooling.
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. A 20-pound frozen turkey needs two to three days in the refrigerator to thaw completely, so plan accordingly. Cold running water and the microwave may also be used to thaw food, but food defrosted in this manner should be cooked immediately.

No one likes to waste food, so be sure to clean, cook and store foods properly. When it comes to food safety, a good rule-of-thumb is “when in doubt, throw it out.” Food that looks or smells off, or has been sitting out for an extended period should not be eaten.

Knox County Health Department is part of the U.S. Public Health System, serving under the umbrella of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tennessee Department of Health. With an organizational vision of “Every Person a Healthy Person,” KCHD is committed to promoting public health policies and practices to safeguard and improve quality of life for all residents. As the guardian of public health in Knox County, KCHD is responsible for disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, air quality management, ensuring safe food preparation practices in public places, providing nutritional programs, family planning, immunizations and much more. For more information about Knox County Health Department, visit

Picnic Safety Tips

Enjoying a picnic outdoors is a great way to enjoy the beautiful summer weather. To prevent a food borne illness, keep these food safety tips in mind.

  • Picnic Safety Tips Wash your hands before handling food. Pack a bottle of hand sanitizer or antibacterial moist towelettes if the picnic site does not have hand washing facilities.
  • Keep cold foods cold. Pack cold food products in coolers with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs to keep your food at 40 degrees or colder to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Keep hot foods hot —140 degrees orhotter prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. Wrap hot foods in towels, then newspapers, and place inside a box to transport to your picnic.
  • Put all perishable food back in the cooler after eating. No more than two hour is normally the rule for leavingp erishable food un-refrigerated. For picnics in hot weather, one hour without refrigeration is the maximum. The best rule to remember is: When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Keep melons out of the “Danger Zone.” If not properly handled, melons (i.e. watermelon, cantaloupe) can cause food borne illness. Harmful bacterial are often present on the rind. Wash all melons thoroughly before cutting and refrigerate cut pieces promptly. Melons must be kept chilled after slicing.

Keep drinks in a separate cooler from cold food because it will be opened more often, increasing the chance of getting too warm to safely hold food.

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Main Clinic
140 Dameron Ave,
Knoxville, TN 37917

Monday - Friday
8:00 am - 4:30 pm

All health department clinics open at 12:30 p.m. on the 1st Wednesday of the month.

405 Dante Road
Knoxville, TN 37918

Monday - Friday
8:00 am - 4:30 pm

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
(daily for lunch)

All health department clinics open at 12:30 p.m. on the 1st Wednesday of the month.

1028 Old Cedar Bluff
Knoxville, TN 37923

Monday - Friday
8:00 am - 4:30 pm

All health department clinics open at 12:30 p.m. on the 1st Wednesday of the month.

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