Don’t let your family’s turkey bite back this Thanksgiving

October 06, 2008

OTTAWA – Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and enjoy family, friends and food. But for too many Canadians this year that sumptuous turkey dinner will also bring a nasty case of food-born illness. Adopting safe cooking and safe handling practices will reduce the risk to you and your family from undercooked turkey and stuffing and from cross contamination during preparation.

It’s estimated that there are between 11 and 13 million cases of food-related illness in Canada each year. “ Turkey is particularly dangerous due to the risk of salmonella or other bacterial contamination,” says Jack Smith, president of the Canada Safety Council. “It’s important that your family’s turkey is properly handled and properly prepared.”

Always remember to:

  • Buy your fresh turkey no more than two days before cooking it.
  • Store your turkey in the refrigerator or freezer immediately after you purchase it.
  • Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator or in cold water, and change the water every half hour. DO NOT thaw your turkey at room temperature.
  • Clean and disinfect your hands as well as any surfaces or kitchen utensils touched by raw turkey or drippings from thawing turkey.
  • Never slow cook a turkey – set your oven no lower than 177°C (350°F) and use a meat thermometer, and cook your turkey until the temperature of the thickest part of the breast or thigh is at least 85°C (185°F).
  • If preparing stuffing, cook the stuffing separately in its own oven dish or on the stove top. Stuff loosely just prior to roasting, and remove all stuffing immediately after cooking. Cook your stuffing to a minimum internal temperature of 74°C (165°F).
  • Put any leftovers in the fridge right away, placing them in an uncovered, shallow container so they cool quickly.

If a food-borne illness is contracted, the symptoms are often similar to those of the flu; including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. These symptoms could show up right away, or they may not appear for over a month. Such illnesses can be particularly dangerous for the elderly, young children or those with weakened immune systems.