File this under “You Might Be Concerned About the Wrong Thing” this Thanksgiving:

A national survey found more Americans (37 percent) are worried about becoming sick of an annoying relative than getting sick from the food at the table (31 percent).

But annoying or not, your eccentric aunt won’t send you to the hospital – but improperly cooked food or the invisible foodborne germs on your kitchen counter might. One in five Americans (22 percent) admits their kitchen would fail a food safety inspection, according to a survey sponsored by the Water Quality and Health Council.

With so much cooking going on in kitchens across the country, everyone needs to be on guard against foodborne illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that raw foods of animal origin, such as turkey, are the most likely to be contaminated.

Experts note that good kitchen hygiene and proper disinfection are the keys to reducing the risks of foodborne illnesses that could send a friend or family member to the hospital.

How to Kill Foodborne Germs

Experts recommend thoroughly cleaning all food contact surfaces before and after working with raw foods, especially meat and poultry.

Start by thoroughly washing kitchen surfaces with hot, soapy water and rinsing. Then apply a simple chlorine bleach solution and let air dry to properly disinfect the area.

Either regular strength bleach or the new, concentrated, high-strength bleach will get the job done. Just make sure you use the right amount.

For routine kitchen-surface sanitizing, use either 1 tablespoon regular strength bleach in 1 gallon of water, or 2 teaspoons high-strength bleach in 1 gallon of water. Remember that surfaces must be cleaned first with hot, soapy water before sanitizing with the bleach solution.

Four Other Tips

In addition to cleaning, here are four other tips for a safe Thanksgiving:

  1. Wash Hands – Thoroughly wash hands with warm, soapy water before and after all food preparation and after handling raw foods.
  2. Compartmentalize – Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  3. Cook – To kill any bacteria that might be present, thoroughly cook meat, poultry and eggs to the appropriate temperature.
  4. Chill – Refrigerate leftover perishables at 40 degrees within two hours after cooking or serving.

Are You Transporting a Dish?

Are you taking a dish to Grandma’s house this year? For road trips longer than one hour, experts recommend packing all food items in a cooler with ice. Dishes meant to be served hot should be prepared the day before, refrigerated and then transported in ice.

As for your annoying Aunt Mae or Uncle Ed, try viewing them as eccentric or colorful – and realize they’ll probably provide you with some funny stories or memorable moments.

Thanksgiving comes once a year – let’s make it a good one! Here’s to the many moms who go all out to provide the warm and festive family dinners we can all be thankful for.