By Melissa DeRoche Central Michigan District Health Department Emergency Preparedness Coordinator & Public Information Officer OSCEOLA COUNTY\u00a0-\u00a0The holidays are fast approaching and excitement is in the air. When making plans for your\u00a0holiday feast, food safety should be on the top of your list. Most guest lists include people who are\u00a0especially vulnerable to food borne illness\u00a0-\u00a0older people, young children, pregnant women and\u00a0anyone with a compromised immune system. To keep your family gathering from being memorable\u00a0in the wrong way, it's important to take steps to protect your guests from food borne illness. "To\u00a0ensure our holiday foods are not only delicious, but safe, the following suggestions of the Food and\u00a0Drug Administration are provided to reduce the risk of the most common foodborne\u00a0illnesses," said Michelle Patton, director of environmental health services for the Central Michigan\u00a0District Health Department. Cooking: Cook to proper temperatures. Foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a\u00a0long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful microbes\u00a0that cause foodborne illness. Follow temperature guidelines provided with the food packaging\u00a0and if in doubt, visit cmdhd.org for a handy temperature chart you can use for reference. Chilling: Refrigerate promptly. Public health officials warn people to refrigerate foods quickly\u00a0because cold temperatures keep most harmful microbes from growing. Place leftovers in shallow\u00a0containers, leaving the cover loose to vent steam. Don't stack the cooling food containers so\u00a0there is plenty of air circulation. Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer at zero\u00a0degrees\u00a0Fahrenheit\u00a0to keep stored food at safe temperatures. Whatever you do, don't rely on the natural\u00a0outdoor temperature on the porch to keep foods at proper temperature. Baked goods: The FDA warns people not to eat uncooked cookie dough, homemade or\u00a0premixed; or batters made with raw eggs, because raw eggs may contain microbes that can\u00a0cause illness. Proper cooking kills the microbes that cause illness. Eggnog: Eggnog made with raw eggs also presents disease risk to consumers. While cooking\u00a0can destroy the disease-causing microbes, people can still get sick when the eggnog is left at\u00a0room temperature for several hours before drinking. Other options are pasteurized eggnog\u00a0brands sold in grocery dairy cases; these should also be kept refrigerated. Turkey: Thawing the turkey fully before cooking is important to reduce the risk of foodborne\u00a0illness. If a turkey is not fully thawed, the outside of the turkey will be done before the inside,\u00a0and the inside will not be hot enough to destroy disease-causing microbes. Allow the correct\u00a0amount of time to fully thaw and cook a whole turkey. Allocate 24 hours per 5 pounds to\u00a0defrost in the refrigerator, and whatever you do, don't defrost the turkey on the kitchen\u00a0counter. Refer to temperature guidelines for stuffed turkeys which need to be cooked longer. To check a turkey for doneness, insert a food thermometer into the inner thigh area near the\u00a0breast of the turkey (thickest part), being careful not to touch the bone. The turkey is done\u00a0when the temp reaches 165 degrees\u00a0Fahrenheit. If the turkey is stuffed, the temp of the stuffing and\u00a0turkey must be 165 degrees\u00a0Fahrenheit\u00a0to assure that it is completely cooked and safe to eat. It is\u00a0recommended to cook the stuffing separately from the turkey. "Following these simple guidelines will ensure you have a happy and safe holiday season," said\u00a0Patton. "Remember the golden rule: Keep hot food hot and cold food cold."