As you sit down to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal this year with friends or family, there’s a good chance that whoever made it didn’t wash their hands like they should, a study found.
The study, done by the Water Quality & Health Council, surveyed more than 3,000 Americans online in October to examine food safety and home cooking behaviors during the holidays.
And if you’re part of the 1 in 3 Americans who the study says are worried about getting food poisoning this holiday season, your concerns may be warranted.
More than a quarter of people surveyed for the study admitted that they don’t wash their hands while cooking, other than before and after, the study found.
This could cause cross-contamination and “introduce dangerous food-borne pathogens, like E. coli and salmonella, to holiday meals,” the study says.
Washing your hands is one of the best things to do to prevent food poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds, including between your fingers and under your nails, for 20 seconds before, during and after cooking.
But whether whoever made Thanksgiving washed their hands isn’t the only concern.
They study found that 38% of home cooks don’t use anything other than soap and water to sanitize kitchen surfaces between steps, which can also lead to cross-contamination.
Most Americans rinse the raw turkey before cooking it, which experts say “could splatter germs up to three feet, contaminating nearby kitchen surfaces,” according to the study.
The CDC advises not to wash any raw meat, poultry or eggs for this reason.
And Thanksgiving leftovers could be risky, too.
More than a quarter of those surveyed who had turkey for Thanksgiving last year said they left it out for more than three hours after dinner. Dangerous bacteria can start growing on turkey two hours after it’s cooked, the study says.
“These practices may in part explain why nearly 1 in 4 Americans (22%) reports having previously gotten food poisoning from a holiday meal,” the study says.
To prevent food poisoning the holiday season, the CDC recommends washing hands and surfaces often, keeping raw meats and eggs away from other foods, cooking food to the right temperature and refrigerating it promptly.