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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Thanksgiving Toolkit to Prevent Foodborne Illness: Talking Points

  • The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (www.fsis.usda.gov) is the public health regulatory agency in USDA responsible for ensuring that meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe, wholesome and accurately labeled.
     
  • This Thanksgiving, [NAME OF ORGANIZATION] has teamed up with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure everyone has a healthy, safe and bacteria-free Thanksgiving.
     
  • Food poisoning is a serious public health threat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that foodborne illness results in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the United States annually.
     
  • This Thanksgiving, Americans will consume more than 40 million turkeys. With so many people preparing a meal they don’t cook very often, hosts must be especially careful not to serve up food poisoning.

Four Steps to Food Safety

  • Clean: Clean hands, surfaces and utensils with soap and warm water before cooking. Wash hands for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry. After cleaning surfaces raw poultry has touched, also apply a sanitizer. 
  • Separate: Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat or poultry and foods that are ready to eat.
  • Cook: Confirm foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature by using a food thermometer. Turkey should be cooked to 165°F, as measured in three places — the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing.
  • Chill: Chill foods promptly if not consuming immediately after cooking. Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours.
     
  • For more information and tips on preparing the Thanksgiving meal safely, consumers can visit FoodSafety.gov or call the Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free at 1-888-MPHotline (888-674-6854), open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Thanksgiving Day.

Observational Study Results

  • Recent USDA research conducted in a test kitchen found some startling insights about how bacteria may be spread around the kitchen when individuals are preparing raw poultry, especially when the raw poultry is washed or rinsed.

Poultry Washing and Cross-Contamination:

  • To assess cross-contamination when washing or rinsing raw poultry, researchers analyzed the spread of bacteria from chicken thighs that had been spiked with harmless tracer bacteria. The microbiological data identified both direct and indirect cross-contamination that occurred during the meal preparation experiment.
     
  • The most frequently contaminated surface was the kitchen sink, even for the participants that did not wash or rinse the poultry. This could explain where cross-contamination may have occurred especially if produce (i.e., the salad ingredients) was washed or rinsed in the sink. Hand-facilitated cross-contamination is also suspected to be an important factor in explaining the cross-contamination that occurred in both groups.
     
  • Our results indicated:
    • 60 percent of participants contaminated the inner sink after washing or rinsing the raw chicken.
      • 14 percent of participants still had contaminated sinks after they attempted to clean the inner sink.
      • 26 percent of the salads were contaminated by those participants that washed or rinsed the chicken.
      • When participants did not wash or rinse the chicken, 48 percent still contaminated the inner sink and 31 percent contaminated the salad.
         
    • Do not wash or rinse your raw turkey. You should avoid washing or rinsing a turkey (or any eggs, meat or poultry products for that matter) before cooking. Juices can transfer bacteria onto kitchen surfaces, other foods and utensils. If you must wash or rinse your turkey because of brining or other marinating process, be sure to thoroughly clean and then sanitize all kitchen surfaces to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination.

Handwashing:

  • Inadequate handwashing has been identified as a contributing factor to foodborne illness, especially when preparing raw meat and poultry. Hands can become vectors that move potential pathogens found in raw meat and poultry around the kitchen, which can contribute to foodborne illnesses.
    • Researchers observed 1,145 cases in which handwashing was required to prevent cross-contamination during meal preparation.
      • Of these, handwashing was not attempted 74 percent of the time, and 99 percent of the attempts did not contain all the steps of correct handwashing. The most common reason for unsuccessful handwashing was not rubbing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, followed by not wetting hands with water.
         
  • Proper hand washing after handling raw meat, poultry and eggs can greatly reduce the risk of bacterial cross-contamination. Hand washing should always include five simple steps:
    1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
    2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
    3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
    4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
    5. Dry your hands using a clean towel.

Food Thermometer Use:

  • 44 percent of participants used a food thermometer on at least one chicken thigh. 20 percent of participants only used visual cues, 11 percent only used time and 9 percent only used touch.
     
  • You can’t see, smell or feel bacteria on meat and poultry, so you should always use a food thermometer to make sure you have destroyed any illness causing bacteria, such as Salmonella or Campylobacter.
    • Your turkey is safe to eat when the temperature reads 165°F in three places:
      • the thickest part of the breast
      • the innermost part of the thigh
      • the innermost part of the wing
         
  • Although pop-up temperature indicators can be helpful to estimate when the turkey has reached a safe temperature, you must also check the temperature of the turkey with a conventional food thermometer to ensure safety and doneness of the entire bird.

Preparing Your Turkey

  • Fresh turkey: The “fresh” label means the turkey has never been chilled below 26°F. Fresh turkeys should not be purchased until one or two days before Thanksgiving, unless the manufacturer’s tag has a “Best By” or “Use-by” date that indicates the turkey will be safe until Thanksgiving. If there is no manufacturer’s tag, then purchase a fresh turkey the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving at the earliest. Many retailers will allow you to reserve a turkey for pick-up the day before the holiday. If you bring home a fresh turkey before Tuesday, it should be frozen before cooking.
     
  • Frozen turkey: A “frozen” turkey is a turkey that has been cooled to 0°F or lower. Most turkeys sold in the United States are frozen. When purchasing a frozen turkey make sure to leave enough time for it to defrost.
     
  • Thawing turkey: Thawing a turkey on the counter is unsafe. There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey – in the refrigerator, in cold water or in a microwave oven.
    • It will take 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of weight for a turkey to thaw in the refrigerator.
    • To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after thawing using this method.
    • For instructions on microwave defrosting, refer to the owner’s manual for your microwave. Cook the turkey immediately after defrosting using this method.
       
  • Do not stuff a turkey the night before cooking it. Harmful bacteria can multiply in the stuffing and cause food poisoning when a stuffed bird is refrigerated. The wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing can be prepared separately from each other and refrigerated the night before.

Cooking Your Turkey

  • To cook a large turkey, use the timetables for turkey roasting for an unstuffed turkey, which can be found in the Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking section of the FSIS website. Add 10 minutes per pound for turkeys over 24 pounds. FSIS does not recommend stuffing a turkey over 24 pounds.
     
  • Cooking two turkeys of approximately the same weight takes no longer than if there were only one bird in the oven. Make sure there is enough oven space for proper heat circulation.
     
  • It is safe to cook a frozen turkey. The cooking time will take at least 50 percent longer than recommended for a fully thawed turkey.
    • If you cannot separate the giblet package from the turkey before cooking, remove it carefully with tongs or a fork a few hours into the cooking process.
    •  
  • After cooking meat and poultry, keep it hot at 140°F or warmer, until served. The cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200°F, in a chafing dish, slow cooker or warming tray.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

  • Leftovers (including appetizers, side dishes, and the turkey) should be stored within two hours of cooking. Unfortunately, recent USDA research found that only half of study participants reported that they refrigerate large amounts of leftovers in multiple small containers.
    • Dividing leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerating or freezing them in covered shallow containers helps cool leftovers more quickly than storing them in large containers.
       
  • In a 2018 study from USDA, 76 percent of respondents said they would refrigerate leftovers after letting them cool to room temperature first. This is not necessary, and it could actually make your food unsafe. If you leave leftovers out at room temperature, they remain in the “danger zone” (40-140°F) longer than if they go directly into the refrigerator. Food will cool down to a safe temperature faster in the refrigerator.
     
  • Thanksgiving leftovers are safe in the refrigerator for up to four days. This means you have until the Monday after Thanksgiving to eat them, or you can place them in the freezer to enjoy later. If you store leftovers in the freezer, they will be of best quality within 2-6 months.
    • Frozen food stays safe indefinitely, though the quality may decrease over time.
    • Reheat leftovers thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F.

 

Last Modified Nov 15, 2019