Thanksgiving Turkey Safety Tips

One in five cases of food-borne illness happens in the home. Don't let germs crash your Thanksgiving table!

Soap up. You’ve heard it a million times, but washing your hands with soap is key because it binds to germs, allowing them to be rinsed off with water. Choose liquid soap with a pump; bar soap left on a dish can harbor bacteria.

Wait to stuff. If you fill your turkey with stuffing, do so just before putting the bird in the oven. Leaving uncooked food out for extended periods while prepping can increase the chances of germs multiplying.

Take its temperature. Cook the turkey thoroughly, until the meat is no longer pink, to avoid the possibility of salmonella. (See for recommended cooking times.) To be totally safe, use a meat thermometer and check the temperature in the breast of the bird (not the fat or bone, which could be higher). It should be at least 165 degrees when you take it out.

Double rinse. Even if you’re using prewashed salad, wash produce again for 10 to 20 seconds because germs and pesticides can linger on the leaves. Same goes for fruits and veggies. If you buy a head of lettuce or cabbage, remove the outer leaves and then wash.

Trace your steps. After handling raw meat, clean all surfaces, such as the kitchen faucet, sink, countertops, and cutting boards. Use warm water and soap, followed by a bleach solution (one tablespoon of bleach, one quart of water). Make a note of the routes that germs travel. For instance, if you touch the raw turkey and then open up the fridge, clean the fridge handle as well.

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Source: Athena P. Kourtis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, associate professor at Emory University, and author of Keeping Your Child Healthy in a Germ-Filled World.

Photo Credit: Annabell Breakey/Getty Images

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