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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Food Safety Tips On Handling And Cooking Turkey

Food safety tips on handling and cooking turkey to avoid foodborne illness
by Jim Chan, Certified Public Health Inspector (Retired)

Pathogens are party crashers and uninvited guests to your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. You won't know they are at the table because they are invisible and you likely won't see them enjoying the food that you cooked

What are pathogens? They are disease causing microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi. The three bacteria that commonly cause foodborne diseases or food poisoning outbreaks are SalmonellaCampylobacter and E. coli 0157:H7Any of these bacteria can cause illness and sometimes even death if victims are young children, elderly or sick. 

What usually cause foodborne diseases? Poor hygiene, sloppy food handling, improper cooking temperatures, food storage or inadequate food safety knowledge to ensure food is handled safely to prevent cross-contamination. 

1. Food safety starts with your shopping list.

Choose a clean shopping cart, but surfaces such as the handle, baskets can be contaminated with pathogens, carry hand wipes or towels to clean hands after.

Put raw meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and shellfish separate from ready-to-eat food, fruits and produces to prevent cross-contamination in the shopping cart.
Do not buy meat or poultry that has a tear in the package or is leaking.

Pick up refrigerated and frozen items at the end of the trip to keep them cold longer.
Avoid keeping food in warm temperature for a long time. Consider using a cooler or insulated shopping bag for perishable foods and the frozen products can act as ice packs to keep food cold. 

Never keep food in the car trunk for long period of time, especially in the summer as food such as meat, dairy products, seafood can spoil fast.

2. Thoroughly wash hands and all preparation surfaces.

Wash hands with soap under warm water before handling any food, especially raw poultry or meat. After handling, wash hands again before touching or serving food to avoid post contamination.

To prevent cross-contamination of foods, use separate clean cutting boards and utensils, one for raw meat or poultry and another board for produces, fruits or ready-to-eat foods. After using cutting boards and utensils, wash these in a sink of hot soapy water, rinse
well with clean water containing a sanitizer such as bleach (Tip: Add about four capfuls of household bleach to the rinse water).

Clean counter tops and surrounding areas regularly by using a bleach solution or other sanitizing agents with a clean dish cloth. Wash the cloth with hot soapy water and bleach before next use.

Avoid using sponges for cleaning utensils or surfaces as sponges are not as easy to clean and sanitize as dish cloths. If sponges are used, wash them with hot water containing bleach or other sanitizers and heat them in the microwave at high for about 30 or more seconds after each use.

3. Monitor how long buffet foods have been out.

Keep hot food hot (at least 60°C or 140°F) and cold food cold (below 4°C or 40°F). Temperatures between these ranges are in the Danger Zone.

Do not let perishable foods linger in the temperature danger zone for longer than two hours. Avoid putting out large portions of food, use small serving dishes and platters and keep replacement dishes of food hot in the oven or cold in the refrigerator. Replenish with new full dishes instead of adding to ones that have been sitting for one or two hours. 

4. Store foods properly.

Remove leftover turkey from the bone and refrigerate meat, stuffing and gravy separately.

If food is hot, let it cool for no more than 30 minutes, then put it in the refrigerator.

Keep raw foods away from cooked foods, safely cooked food can become contaminated through even the slightest contact with raw food or an unwashed utensil.

Keep leftover food, especially meat, in refrigerator and always use leftovers within two to three days or freeze them for up to one month. 

Before serving leftovers, reheat them so all parts of the food are cooked thoroughly and to ensure they reach safe temperatures (see chart on cooking and reheating temperatures for different food - Right).

Leftover turkey meat should be reheated to at least 74°C (165° F) and gravy should be heated to a full boil as this will kill any bacteria that might have developed during refrigeration.

5. Play it safe when cooking a turkey.

A frozen turkey can take up to one week to thaw completely in the refrigerator. Allow four to five hours per pounds (500 grams) thawing time.

Always thaw the turkey in the refrigerator and make sure the refrigerator temperature is at least 4°C  or 40° F. Keep the turkey in its original plastic wrap and put it in a pan or container deep enough to contain any drips.

Cook the turkey until the internal temperature is at least 82°C (180° F) and check by inserting a food probe thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and breast.

It is safer to cook the stuffing separately to avoid growth of bacteria inside the cavity if the heat not able to reach the stuffing. The cooked stuffing can be added to the turkey's cavity when it is done. If you want to cook stuffing with the turkey, stuff it just before cooking as this can reduce the risk of excessive bacteria growth and use a probe thermometer to ensure the stuffing is cooked to 82°C (180° F).

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