5 Turkey Safety Tips This Christmas

Even though we will experience a Covid Christmas this year, we still need to prepare the turkey safely or risk a foodborne illness occurring.

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 Christmas holiday dinner to celebrate the season 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 turkeys were defrosted 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 Christmas 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. They should have ensured that the turkeys were cooked to an internal temperature of 74 C or 165 F.

Here are 5 Turkey Safety Tips: 1. Always wash hands before, during and after preparing and serving the turkey.

2. Defrost the turkey in the refrigerator or cold water but never at room temperature.

3. Use separate knives and cutting boards for the raw and cooked turkey. Otherwise, cross-contamination can occur which spreads the bacteria and increases the risk.

4. 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.

5. 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! If you do this, you will have to throw out the turkey the next day as it has been in the Danger Zone for too many hours. Have a great Christmas meal with these 5 turkey 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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