Tips to avoid getting sick on Thanksgiving
Published 7:08 am Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Thanksgiving is not a holiday that makes many people think about safety.
But with any food preparation, there is always a chance of accidentally making people sick.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has several tips to make turkey day a bit safer.
Email newsletter signup
“Turkey and other meat and poultry may contain Salmonella and Campylobacter that can lead to serious foodborne illness,” said acting FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker. “By properly handling and cooking your turkey, you can avoid these harmful pathogens and ensure your family has a safe and healthy Thanksgiving feast.”
The first is obvious but often overlooked in the frenzy of preparation, the simple task of washing your hands. But don’t wash the turkey
The USDA said washing your hands before cooking is the simplest way to stop the spread of bacteria, while washing your turkey is the easiest way to spread bacteria all over your kitchen.
According to the 2016 Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Survey, 68 percent of consumers wash poultry in the kitchen sink, which is not recommended by the USDA.
Research shows that washing meat or poultry can splash bacteria around your kitchen by up to 3 feet, contaminating countertops, towels and other food. Washing doesn’t remove bacteria from the bird. Only cooking the turkey to the correct internal temperature will ensure all bacteria are killed.
The exception to this rule is brining. When rinsing brine off of a turkey, be sure to remove all other food or objects from the sink, layer the area with paper towels and use a slow stream of water to avoid splashing.
The agency also says to cook stuffing in a separate dish, not inside the turkey. Even if the turkey is cooked to the correct internal temperature, the stuffing inside may not have reached a temperature high enough to kill the bacteria.
A thermometer is needed to make sure the turkey is ready for eating.
The USDA says the only way to avoid foodborne illness is to make sure it is cooked to the correct internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. Take the bird’s temperature in three areas — the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the thigh — make sure all three locations reach 165ºF. If one of those locations does not register at 165ºF, then continue cooking until all three locations reach the correct internal temperature.
If you have questions about your Thanksgiving dinner, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert.