PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Doctors are issuing renewed warnings about keeping potentially dangerous bacteria out of the big holiday meal in order to keep Thanksgiving safe. Turkey, and any kind of poultry, is especially vulnerable to salmonella outbreaks.
The last recall on turkey products lasted 16 months and finally ended in March.
Experts say many don’t realize that bacteria found in many turkeys can contaminate an entire kitchen and trigger foodborne illnesses.
For many Thanksgiving holiday shoppers, safety is a primary concern, especially when it comes to the main event — the turkey.
“We take precautions because we have grandchildren and we want to keep them healthy as well,” turkey buyer Howard Baker said.
Salmonella and campylobacter are the two types of bacteria found in many turkeys.
To protect yourself, food safety experts say wash your hands but don’t wash or rinse the bird, which is against tradition for many.
“Recent USDA research found that when individuals wash meat or poultry, they end up spreading germs in much greater levels all around the kitchen, including into food that may be served,” Chris Bernstein, with the USDA, said.
Health officials also recommend always using a meat thermometer. Pop-up thermometers that come included with most turkeys are not enough to ensure all of the bacteria are cooked out.
“You want to make sure you cook that turkey to a full 165 degrees throughout the bird,” Bernstein said. “Because it’s so large it can cook unevenly. So you need to take that temperature in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the inner-most part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing.”
Experts also warn to never partially cook a turkey and then transport it elsewhere to finish cooking, never stuff a turkey the night before and never thaw the bird on the counter. That’s best done in the refrigerator or in cold water.
These are simple steps to keep your family safe this Thanksgiving.
The USDA does not recommend stuffing a turkey at all because it takes so much longer to cook and the stuffing also needs to reach a temperature of 165 degrees to kill bacteria.