As the holiday season descends, kitchens across the United States are buzzing with activity. This year, take note of these crucial tips from the Mayo Clinic to help keep your friends and family safe from foodborne illness as you whip up traditional treats and holiday feasts.

Keep it Clean

The first step in preventing food poisoning is to make sure your kitchen is clean. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds in warm, soapy water before and after touching any food and be sure to use hot, soapy water to clean all utensils, cutting boards and kitchen surfaces.

Separate Raw Foods

Take care to keep any raw meat, shellfish, fish or poultry separate from other food items to prevent cross-contamination. This means that you need to separate raw meats in shopping bags as well as in your refrigerator.

Check the Temperature

Always make sure your food has reached the proper temperature necessary to kill any germs or bacteria by using a food thermometer. For ground beef, make sure you get to 160 degrees F. Roasts and steaks need to reach at least 145 degrees F, while chicken and turkey need to be cooked to a minimum of 160 degrees F.

Safe Defrosting

Defrosting frozen foods at room temperature is a no-no. To ensure you aren’t creating a breeding ground for dangerous organisms, Mayo Clinic recommends that you thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, by running cold water over the food, or by using the “defrost” settings on your microwave.

Pitch it

When it comes to food poisoning, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry. If you aren’t sure whether a food has been kept too long, don’t risk it — throw it out. Even if food looks or smells ok, it may be contaminated. Better to make an extra trip to the market than to risk serving food that will make your loved ones sick.

Every year, thousands of Americans suffer from food poisoning, which may be caused by a number of different bacteria and viruses. Individuals who are at the highest risk are the elderly, the very young and pregnant women, as well as people who have weakened immune systems caused by other illnesses.

If you believe you contracted food poisoning or a foodborne illness, seek medical attention. In some cases, individuals who contract a foodborne illness may be entitled to compensation in food poisoning lawsuits. For more information, an experienced personal injury lawyer.