Don't Let Sickness Ruin Your Holiday! Be Prepared

Knowing the right way to thaw and cook your turkey can make Thanksgiving a safer and happier holiday, Plainville-Southington Regional Health District Coordinator Shane Lockwood said.

The following was submitted by Plainville-Southington Regional Health District Coordinator Shane Lockwood.

Don’t let sickness ruin your holidays.

The CDC estimates that 48 million Americans get sick every year from foodborne illness, such as salmonella, norovirus, and E. Coli. Bacteria in foods multiply rapidly when left in the temperature “Danger Zone,” which is between 45 degrees F and 140 degrees F. 

All it takes is 4 hours for potentially hazardous foods, such as meats, eggs dishes and stuffing, to breed illness causing bacteria when left in the “Danger Zone.” That’s why your refrigerator’s temperature should be below 45° F and your hot foods kept above 140 degrees F.

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Below are some other helpful tips that can prevent food-born illness:

Cleaning: Wash hands often, especially before touching any food and prior to eating. Disinfect countertops, cutting boards, and utensils after coming in contact with raw meats.

Separate: Prevent cross contamination. Always keep your raw food items on lower shelving in the refrigerator, away from ready-to-eat items. Just one drop of raw meat juices can make you ill. Never use the same cutting boards or utensils for raw meats and ready to eat foods. Use separate cutting boards and utensils or thoroughly wash them after use with raw meats and before use using with ready to eat foods.

Thawing:   Never thaw foods on the counter.  Foods should always be thawed in either the refrigerator (below 45 degrees F), under cold running water, or during the cooking process.  Plan ahead with that turkey! Allow approx. 24 hours of thawing time in refrigerator per every 5 pounds of turkey.

Approximate thawing times in refrigerator:
Whole turkey weight       Time in refrigerator
4 to 12 lbs                        1 to 3 days
12 to 16 lbs                      3 to 4 days
16 to 20 lbs                      4 to 5 days
20 to 24 lbs                      5 to 6 days

Cooking: Make sure all meats are thoroughly cooked, to the following temperatures, by using a meat thermometer: turkey, stuffing and casseroles to min.165 degrees F; veal, beef and lamb roasts to min.145 degrees F. Remember to place your thermometer in the innermost part of the food. If your bird has a “pop-up” temperature indicator, still double-check with the thermometer. A probe thermometer is a great investment in food safety, if you don’t already have one, get one! Reheat cooked foods to at least 165° F and remember, microwave ovens do not cook foods evenly.

Cooling: Cooked foods should be cooled rapidly. The following are some suggestions. Reduce the size of the food item you’re trying to cool by cutting into smaller portions, or by dividing into shallow pans (food 3” deep or less). Cooling foods down to 70° F within 2 hours and then down to 45° F. within an additional 4 hours is strongly encourage. If placing food in the refrigerator, uncover it so it can cool down easier, but make sure nothing can fall into it. Cover it once it reaches 45 degrees F.

The Plainville-Southington Regional Health District would like to wish you a joyous and safe holiday season! And don’t forget to go for a walk or hike to help prevent those calories from accumulating.

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