Many Iowans are already in their kitchens, preparing the Thanksgiving meal. For those who don’t want to make their families sick, Mason City environmental health inspector Dixie Fullerton has a few tips to avoid an invasion of bacteria — and food poisoning. For starters, Fullterton says to use separate utensils so the knife or fork that touches raw meat doesn’t contaminate other foods. Do your dishes in between the preparation of various courses, washing the counters with soap and water especially after the turkey has been set on the counter and stuffed. Fullerton, who works in the Cerro Gordo County Health Department, says all foods need to be properly prepared and stored. Fullerton says fruits and vegetables should be washed and salads should be prepared and put back into the fridge right away. The fridge’s thermostat should be at 41-degrees or below at all times. Fullerton says when we are done, the leftovers need to be properly stored right away. Don’t leave the food sitting on the counter or table, especially for longer than two hours. Cover the leftovers and get them in the fridge or they could be putting your health at risk. For more information on food safety, visit the U-S-D-A web site: “”, or call the U-S-D-A Meat and Poultry Hotline: 800-535-4555.