More than 40 million turkeys will be cooked across the country for Thanksgiving, which leaves plenty of opportunities for food poisoning, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that foodborne illnesses results in approximately 128,000 hospitalizations per year.
The USDA has four steps for proper food safety:
- Make sure your hands, surfaces and utensils have been washed with soap and warm water before cooking. Your hands should be washed for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry. After cleaning surfaces raw poultry has touched, also apply a sanitizer.
- Avoid cross-contamination between raw meat or poultry and foods that are ready to eat by using separate cutting boards, plates and utensils.
- Use a food thermometer to confirm foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Turkey should be cooked to 165 degrees F, as measured in three places – the thickets part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing.
- Foods should be chilled promptly if they are not consumed immediately after cooking. Food should not be left at room temperature for longer than two hours.
According to the USDA, the most frequently contaminated surface is the kitchen sink. The government organization recommends not washing or rinsing your raw turkey, as juices can transfer bacteria onto kitchen surfaces, other food and utensils.
If a turkey must be washed because of a cooking process, be sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize all kitchen surfaces to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination, said the USDA.
Additional research found that handwashing was not attempted 74 percent of the time in 1,145 observed cases during meal preparation and 99 percent of the attempts were described as “unsuccessful handwashing.”
The five steps to proper handwashing are:
- Wet your hands with clean, running hot or cold water.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands under clean running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel.
If you are thawing a frozen turkey in a refrigerator, it will take 24 hours for every four to five pounds of weight.
The USDA advises not to stuff a turkey the night before cooking because harmful bacteria can multiply in the stuffing and cause food poisoning when a stuffed bird is refrigerated.
The ingredients for stuffing should be prepared separately and refrigerated the night before, according to the USDA.
Once the turkey is cooked, keep the bird hot at 140 degrees F or warmer, until served.
Food is susceptible to contamination when it is in the range of 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F.
After the meal, leftovers should be stored within two hours of cooking and divided into smaller portions for refrigeration – the small sizes help the food cool quickly.