You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

Public Health shares turkey-safety tips ahead of Thanksgiving

20211124-bc-TurkeydaySafety

Nearly 88 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation, which represents the industry that helps provide about 46 million turkeys each year for the holiday.

 

Nearly 88 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation, which represents the industry that helps provide about 46 million turkeys each year for the holiday.

However, with so many millions of pounds of bird being consumed, it’s still important to remember food safety, according to Michelle Corson, program manager for the Kern County Public Health Services Department, as about 48 million people get sick each year from foodborne illness.

This can largely be avoided around Thanksgiving with a handful of tips that Corson sent out Tuesday from the county’s public health department.

The first suggestion is to use the refrigerator, the cold-water method or the microwave to defrost a frozen turkey. These are the three safe ways to defrost a turkey, with the refrigerator the safest method because the turkey will defrost at a consistent, safe temperature. To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes.

The second tip is to make sure one washes their hands, but not their turkey. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises not to wash the turkey, as it is the easiest way to spread bacteria in the kitchen.

The third tip is that stuffing the turkey is actually not advised. 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. “If you still choose to stuff the turkey, stuff the bird just before placing (the turkey) in a preheated oven,” Corson stated in a news release. “All of the stuffing needs to be removed from the bird immediately after removing (it) from the oven.”

The fourth tip is to make sure a thermometer is used, as it’s very important the turkey is cooked to 165 degrees in order to kill bacteria. The bird’s temperature should be taken in three areas — the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the thigh.

And last but perhaps most importantly, follow the two-hour rule for leftovers: Any meat, stuffing or other perishable foods should not be left on the table or countertops for longer than two hours, because at that point, bacteria can rapidly multiply.

After the guests have gone

In terms of enjoying leftovers, which is a tradition nearly as time-honored as the meal itself in some households, the USDA offers the following tips on its website, USDA.org:

Use shallow containers: After you break down the meal into smaller portions, store leftover food in shallow containers in the refrigerator until the Monday after Thanksgiving, or in the freezer for later use.

Freeze or consume within four days: Use the Monday after Thanksgiving as a reminder that it is the last day you can safely eat leftovers. If you want to keep leftovers longer, freeze them within that time frame. Frozen food stays safe indefinitely, though the quality may decrease over time. (For best results, the USDA recommends eating the meat within six months.)

Reheat to 165 degrees: Make sure your reheated leftovers reach 165 degrees when measured with a food thermometer. Reheat sauces, soups and gravies safely by bringing them to a rolling boil.

Microwave food safely: When reheating in the microwave, cover and rotate the food for even heating. Arrange food items evenly in a covered microwave safe glass or ceramic dish and add some liquid, if needed. Because microwaves have cold spots, check the internal temperature of the food in several places with a food thermometer after allowing a resting time.

​​Anyone with questions about preparing Thanksgiving dinner is invited to call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-674-6854 to talk to a food safety expert. Visit FoodSafety.gov to learn more about how to safely select, thaw and prepare a turkey.