WMU News

Don't let tainted turkey spoil holiday fun

Nov. 22, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- With everyone gathered for a good meal and lots of holiday cheer, the last thing anyone wants is a case of food poisoning. But following good safety practices and exercising common sense can go a long way toward preventing a mishap.

"With Thanksgiving coming up, lots of people will be handling raw poultry, and that's always a potential source for salmonella," says Arezoo Rojhani, WMU assistant professor of family and consumer sciences.

First, be sure to allow plenty of time to thaw the bird, Rojhani says. She recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator. Many turkeys now come with charts for thawing. "People need to be a little organized," Rojhani says. "For a large turkey, it can take up to two to three days to thaw completely. You don't want to be in a situation where you take it out of the refrigerator and it's still partly frozen."

People should not finish thawing the turkey at room temperature because that allows bacteria to grow on the thawed portions of the bird. After preparing the turkey, all knives, cutting boards and countertops should be thoroughly cleaned to prevent the chance of recontamination. A meat thermometer placed in a thigh should register 180-185 degrees F. before serving. Some recommend cooking stuffing separately, but if cooked inside the turkey, stuffing should reach a temperature of 165 degrees F. After the feast, people should remove food quickly, cover it and place it in the refrigerator.

Rojhani recommends freezing left-over turkey that can't be eaten within about two days. "Placing food in the refrigerator significantly slows down bacterial growth, but doesn't eliminate it," Rojhani says.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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