Observing Food Safety During Thanksgiving

PRESS RELEASE No. 2019-013

Observing Food Safety During Thanksgiving


The Department of Public Health and Social Services would like to remind the public that serving improperly prepared or undercooked turkey can potentially cause the spread of food-borne illness, such as Salmonella.  Please follow the food safety tips below when preparing and cooking your turkey or turkey-based dishes this Thanksgiving. 


Safely Thaw Your Turkey:  Thaw turkeys in the refrigerator in a container, or in a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes.  When thawing a turkey in the microwave, follow the microwave oven manufacturer’s instructions.  Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter. 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.  Bacteria can grow rapidly in the “temperature danger zone,” which is between 40°F and 140°F.


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.


Safely Prepare Stuffing:  Cooking stuffing in a casserole dish makes it easy to ensure 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 cause foodborne illness.  Wait for 20 minutes after removing the turkey from the oven before removing the stuffing from the turkey’s cavity; this allows it to cook a little bit longer.


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.


Safely Clean Up Surfaces Touched by Raw Turkey: To prevent cross-contamination, or the spread of harmful bacteria from one surface to another, be sure to properly wash utensils and equipment between uses with hot, soapy water.  For surfaces that can’t be washed in the sink, use a clean cloth with sanitizing solution made of 1 teaspoon of bleach and 1 quart of clean water.  Keep cloth in sanitizing solution between uses.


Please follow these food safety tips to prevent the spread of food-borne illness this holiday season.


                LEO G. CASIL

                Acting Director


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