Keep Food Safety in Mind This Thanksgiving

In anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday – just two weeks away – the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued some <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">food safety hints, provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The CDC notes that in the last couple of years, it has investigated outbreaks of foodborne illness that were caused by bacteria in jalapeños, spinach, peanut butter, frozen pizza, frozen pot pies, and frozen beef patties. Media attention to these outbreaks has served to make more consumers aware of the ongoing importance of food safety. The CDC also notes that it is a food safety partner with the FSIS, which is responsible for the safety of meat and poultry. The FSIS has assembled preparation tips intended to serve as safety reminders to those who are already familiar with meat and poultry preparation safety and as guidelines for the first-time chef.

The FSIS reminds everyone to be aware of the following four turkey basics:

Safe Thawing

Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The “danger zone” is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature range in which foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, if it is in the “danger zone.” There are three safe ways to thaw food: In the refrigerator, in cold water, and in a microwave oven. For instructions, see “Safe Methods for Thawing” on the USDA website at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Turkey_Basics_Safe_Thawing/index.asp, which is also accessible in Spanish at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/En_Espanol/Pavo_Descongelacion_Adecuada/index.asp

Safe Preparation
Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces as you prepare the turkey. If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw poultry can then be transferred to other foods. After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods.

Safe Stuffing

For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. If you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer. Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit, possibly resulting in foodborne illness. Follow the FSIS’ steps to safely prepare, cook, remove, and refrigerate stuffing at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Turkey_Basics_Stuffing/index.asp. Spanish language instructions are available at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/En_Espanol/Pavo_Relleno/index.asp

Safe Cooking
Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit and be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Place the turkey, breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer; cooking times will vary. The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.

The CDC reminds consumers that following these cooking guidelines can help you prepare a safe holiday dinner that everyone will enjoy.

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