Thanksgiving Turkey Safety

Thanksgiving is a time I look forward to since it involves being with family, friends and having a lovely meal. However, preparation of the turkey must be done properly or a foodborne illness can occur. One of the best examples of how not to handle turkey occurred to an elementary school hockey team. The parents had rented a room at the ice rink for a Thanksgiving holiday dinner to celebrate with the team. The day before, they had left 8 turkeys sitting on the ice at the rink. It seemed to make sense. After all, the rink was cold! However, when the turkeys were prepared, cooked and served the following day at the banquet, there were disastrous consequences. Two children were hospitalized and a total of 30 became ill after consuming the turkeys. Once the Health Department discovered how the defrosting had occurred on the ice, it became obvious that this technique had resulted in the overgrowth of Salmonella. Salmonella is commonly associated with poultry products, especially at Thanksgiving where turkey is the served. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. The parents at the rink should have defrosted the turkeys in the refrigerator or used a combination of cold water and the refrigerator. Also, the group should have ensured that the internal cooking temperature was 74 C or 165 F. Remember to follow these safety tips for your Thanksgiving meal preparation: * Always wash hands before, during and after serving the menu items. * Use separate knives and cutting boards for the raw turkey and cooked turkey. * Either place the stuffing into the turkey just before going in the oven to cook or cook the stuffing separately. The stuffing can act as a sponge and holds in the blood and bacteria when improperly cooked allowing for bacterial growth. * After the meal, cut up the turkey and cool quickly before refrigerating. Last of all, do not leave the cooked turkey in the oven overnight, as one of my students did! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner by following these food safety tips.

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ENVIRO-FOOD CONSULTING is a foodservice consulting business run by Sally de la Rue Browne, Certified Public Health Inspector and Food Safety Specialist.

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