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Turkey Safety Tips

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Food-borne illness has been a growing concern over the past ten years, with reports of contaminated spinach, tomatoes, peppers, apple juice, berries, and beans sprouts. 


The majority of food-safety problems occur at home and could be prevented by safer handling of food. With turkey season just around the corner, this would be a good time to refresh yourself on food safety tips: 


  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
  • Check best-before dates and discard anything suspect.
  • Cook meat to a safe temperature. Turkey especially needs to be cooked thoroughly.
  • Fresh produce must always be washed. Wash under clean, running water—even pre-bagged, pre-washed produce. Potatoes, carrots, squash, and melon should be scrubbed with a vegetable brush to prevent contamination during cutting.
  • Make sure your fridge is set at 40 degrees F or colder and the freezer at 0 degrees F.
  • Never defrost a turkey at room temperature. Defrost it on a tray on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Allow five hours per pound. An acceptable short cut is to thaw in cold water but change the water every 30 to 60 minutes. Allow one hour per pound.
  • Refrigerate or freeze prepared food and leftovers within two hours. The number of bacteria will double in 20 minutes if left at room temperature.
  • A turkey with stuffing inside can cause contamination if it’s not cooked to a safe temperature. Cooking it separately, in its own dish or on the stove top, to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F is the safest bet.
  • Roast turkey at or above 350 degrees F. To check for readiness, place the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast or thigh. A stuffed turkey temperature needs to reach 180F before it is safe to eat.
  • Turkey should be consumed within two to three days. After that you can freeze it which will be good for up to three months.
  • Reheat leftover turkey to a temperature of at least 165 degrees F and gravy and soup to a rolling boil. 


Have a safe and happy holiday! 


By Natasha Morgan of NotJusttheKitchen


Updated on November 19,2010

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