• Infectious Diseases A–Z: Wash your hands, not your turkey and other holiday food safety tips

Washing your hands is an important first step in preparing any meal. "It's important to remember to wash your hands frequently, keep foods at proper temperatures and cook meats to proper temperatures to avoid any foodborne illness," says Anya Guy, a Mayo Clinic dietitian.

This Thanksgiving, follow these tips to avoid unwanted germs at your holiday table.

Should you wash your turkey before cooking?

No, you should not wash your turkey before cooking. Guys says that she recommends not washing turkey, chicken or other raw meat because it puts you at risk for spreading bacteria around the kitchen and on yourself. Bacteria in raw poultry juices can spread to other areas and foods. Instead, wash your hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils with warm, soapy water after they touch raw turkey.

"Make sure to avoid cross-contamination, meaning don't use the same cutting board or the same utensils for your raw meats and your ready-to-eat foods or vegetables," says Guy.

Watch: Anya Guy talks food safety.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Anya Guy are in the downloads and the end of the post. Please "Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network."

Fruits and vegetables

Produce also can contain bacteria that can make you sick. "Make sure to rinse or wash fruits and vegetables under running water for one to two minutes to remove any type of bacteria or contaminant that may be on the surface of the fruit," says Guy. Fruits and vegetables sometimes can contain bacteria that can cause E.coli, listeria and salmonella infections. Nearly one half of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. are caused by germs on fresh produce, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kitchen tools

"Don't forget the food thermometer as an important kitchen utensil. Take the temperature at the thickest part of the meat and look for 165 degrees for poultry, 160 degrees for hamburger and 145 degrees for steak," says Guy. "Don't just look for the juices to run clear."

Keep plenty of clean dish towels and sponges handy. "Be aware of the dish towel disaster. You don't want to use the same dish towel when you go to wipe up a spill or any drippings from raw meat and then going to use it to wipe your hands later on," says Guy. "Make sure that you're washing the dishtowel often or just choose to use paper towels."

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