Thanksgiving is supposed to invoke memories of spending time with family and enjoying a well-cooked meal. You most likely do not expect to become seriously ill after Thanksgiving lunch or dinner. However, if you are not careful while prepping and cooking raw meat, then you or loved ones may succumb to food poisoning. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has several recommendations for preventing Thanksgiving food-borne illnesses. These recommendations include:
- Never wash a turkey: According to the USDA, you can spread bacteria up to three feet away by washing uncooked meat. The best way to kill bacteria on raw meat is to cook it at the proper temperature.
- Prevent cross contamination: It is important to avoid cross contaminating surfaces and utensils during prep work. You should sterilize surfaces and utensils that have touched uncooked meats. Use separate utensils and cutting boards for raw turkey. If you have touched uncooked meat, then you should wash your hands with antibacterial soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Always keep raw turkey away from other foods.
- Properly defrost the turkey: The USDA recommends using a refrigerator to thaw a frozen turkey. These include using a refrigerator, cold water or microwave. According to the USDA, a fridge defrosts the turkey at a consistent and safe temperature.
- Use a meat thermometer: A turkey must be cooked at the correct temperature to kill bacteria. According to the USDA, your meat thermometer should register 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast.
- Properly store leftovers: The USDA cautions against storing food outside. Your food could be heated up by sunlight or temperature variations. Food that is left outside is unsafe to eat.
- Throw away or freeze leftovers: The USDA recommends refrigerating a turkey within two hours of being cooked. In addition, the USDA maintains that you should throw away leftovers after four days. You could also freeze leftovers for long-term storage.
Raw turkey could contain multiple types of bacteria that may cause severe illness. For example, uncooked turkey could contain Salmonella, which can be fatal to some people. The USDA left out some safety tips that might be overlooked. You should remain attentive while cooking and prepping food to ensure you do not expose yourself or others to harmful bacteria.