thanksgiving turkeyDon’t Gamble at the Dinner Table – 1 in 6 Americans will get sick.

NEWARK, NJ -Thanksgiving is a time for friends, family, and food!  While preparing this year’s Thanksgiving feast, make sure to leave food poisoning off the menu.  Whether you’re planning on hosting a house full of friends and family or having a small intimate celebration, it is important to remember that dangers lurk in the kitchen and home that can spoil the holiday. 

“Forgetting about food safety is a recipe for disaster,” says Bruce Ruck, Pharm.D., Managing Director of the NJ Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s Department of Emergency Medicine. Getting sick from eating contaminated food is quite common; contamination can occur at any point during the food production chain — from production to preparation (restaurant or home).[1]

The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that foodborne illnesses cause roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) to get sick each year.[2] Anyone can get sick from eating contaminated food, but certain groups such as young children, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems from medical conditions are more likely to get sick and develop a serious illness. 


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Quick facts about food poisoning.

  • Food poisoning is preventable. Follow these four simple steps: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill 
  • Food poisoning can happen just a few hours after consuming contaminated food.
  • Some symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fever.
  • The effects of food poisoning are not always immediate and can range from mild to severe.
  • Foodborne germs (bacteria, parasites, viruses) can grow very quickly in foods left at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Do not prepare food if you are feeling sick or have any type of respiratory illness or infection.

Food poisoning can be serious. If at any time during the preparing/cooking process you are uncertain of something or think a food poisoning situation may have occurred, don’t hesitate to get help. “Safety doesn’t take a break during the holidays and neither do the medical professionals at the New Jersey Poison Control Center,” says Ruck. “No question is too big or small; we are here 24/7 to provide expert medical advice and help in emergency situations.”  Call, text, chat: 1-800-222-1222,

Below are some common questions the NJ Poison Control Center receives on Thanksgiving.

  • I cooked the turkey with the plastic on. Is it safe to eat?
  • I ate stuffing cooked in the turkey. Will I get sick?
  • My dog ate chocolate left on the table. What should I do?
  • My 3-year-old swallowed two of my mother-in-law’s blood pressure pills. What should I do?

It’s never too early to start planning and preparing for holiday meals. Waiting until the last minute often causes people to take short cuts when it comes to safe food handling practices which puts their guests at risk for leaving the table with more than just full bellies. Every good meal should start with food safety; do not prepare food if you are feeling sick or have any type of respiratory illness or infection.

Poison control centers are a great resource for information and emergencies. Keep us at your fingertips. Save the Poison Help number (1-800-222-1222) as a contact in your cell phone.

Help is Just a Phone Call Away!

We are social. Join us on Facebook (@NJPIES) and Twitter (@NJPoisonCenter) for breaking news, safety tips, trivia questions, etc.

Real People. Real Answers.

[1] CDC. The Food Production Chain

[2] CDC. Food Safety


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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...