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SAFETY CORNER - Staying food safe during Thanksgiving

By Dawn J. Douglas | GARRISON SAFETY OFFICE | November 17, 2017

    Team Riley, for many families nothing says “Thanksgiving” like “turkey.” This is why preparing the holiday bird correctly can avoid unnecessary discomfort or even worse, a trip to the emergency room. According to the Centers for Disease Control, food-handling errors and inadequate cooking are the most common problems that lead to poultry-associated foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States. Clostridium perfringens, bacteria that grows on food left at room temperature, outbreaks occur most often in November and December, according to Foodsafety.gov and the most common outbreaks are related to food served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef. A few tips can prevent foodborne disease and its associated symptoms:

 

CLEAN SURFACES

     Tips to remember no matter how you prepare your turkey are to wash your hands thoroughly and often. Clean surfaces regularly as well with a bacteria-killing solution using hot soapy water. Germs that cause food poisoning survive in many places and are easily spread around your kitchen. Washing your hands, cleaning surfaces, cooking utensils, cutting boards etc. often can mitigate the spread of germs.

 

AVOID CROSS CONTAMINATION

     Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from “ready-to-eat” foods. Use a different cutting board and plate for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Make sure to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly even if the packaging says it was already “pre-washed.”

 

KNOW YOUR COOK TIMES

     Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to safe internal temperature:

                145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb, then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating

                160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork

                165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey

                165°F for leftovers and casseroles

 

SAFELY THAW YOUR TURKEY

     Thaw turkeys in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in the microwave. Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter. A frozen turkey is safe indefinitely, but a thawing turkey must defrost at a safe temperature. When the turkey is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, its temperature becomes unsafe as it moves into the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria can grow rapidly.

 

SAFELY HANDLE YOUR TURKEY

     Raw poultry can contaminate anything it touches with harmful bacteria. Follow the four steps to food safety — cook, clean, chill and separate — to prevent the spread of bacteria to your food and family.

 

PREPARE STUFFING SAFELY

     The Department of Agriculture recommends that stuffing not be prepared ahead. The dry and wet ingredients for stuffing can be prepared ahead of time and chilled. However, do not mix wet and dry ingredients until just before spooning the stuffing mixture into a poultry cavity, in or on other meat, or into a casserole. If stuffing a whole turkey, chicken or other bird, spoon the stuffing in loosely — about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, because heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment.

 

SAFELY STUFF YOUR TURKEY

     Cooking stuffing in a casserole dish makes it easy to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. If you put stuffing in the turkey, do so just before cooking. Use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches 165°F. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F and may then cause food poisoning.

 

SAFELY COOK YOUR TURKEY

     Set the oven temperature to at least 325°F. Place the completely thawed turkey with the breast side up in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Cooking times will vary depending on the weight of the turkey. To make sure the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F, check by inserting a food thermometer into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat. This allows the stuffing to cook a little longer.

 

REFRIGERATE YOUR FOOD PROPERLY

                Keep your refrigerator below 40°F and know when to throw out food.

                Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. If outdoor temperature is above 90°F, refrigerate within 1 hour.

                Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F. Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours.

 

A WORD ABOUT LEFTOVERS

      Clostridium perfringens are bacteria that grow in cooked foods left at room temperature. It is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning. The major symptoms are vomiting and abdominal cramps within 6 to 24 hours after eating. To avoid these uncomfortable symptoms, follow refrigeration guidelines to prevent this bacteria growth.

      Follow this guide for food storage:

                Salads that have a mayonnaise or dairy base should be refrigerated for no more than 3 to 5 days. If not consumed within that time, it should be discarded, not frozen.

                Steaks, chops and roasts should be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days and if frozen, steaks last 6 to 12 months, chops 4 to 6 months and roasts 4 to 12 months.

                If you are going to store a turkey in the refrigerator, it should be eaten in one to two days or a whole chicken or turkey can be frozen for up to 1 year; pieces of turkey or chicken can be frozen for up to 9 months.

 

      Following these tips can prevent gastral intestinal issues and allow you and your family to enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving. Team Riley, for more tips about holiday safety, contact the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Riley Safety Office at 785-240-0647.

 

Tag Food Safety