Bush: Take steps to avoid food poisoning

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Did you know that one in six persons get food poisoning in the United States each year? Chances are you will not hear on the news that Grandma's turkey and dressing caused her family to become sick, but according to University of Tennessee Extension's Janie Burney, a nutrition specialist, holiday food poisoning does happen.

"Diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps are not good ways to remember your time with family and the great food," said Burney. "However, if the chef follows a few simple steps, everyone can enjoy a safe and tasty holiday turkey."

Here are Burney's recommendations:

1. Start early if cooking a frozen turkey. A whole, frozen turkey should thaw in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave oven. Allow about 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds of bird stored in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees or below. That can be as much as 5 or 6 days depending on the turkey's size. Thaw in a container or pan to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods. For cold water thawing, allow 30 minutes per pound. For the microwave oven, follow your manufacturer's instructions. Plan to cook it immediately after thawing.

2. Wash your hands and anything that has come in contact with the turkey in hot water and soap.

3. Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees and be sure the turkey is thawed. Cook your turkey to 165 degrees and use a thermometer to check. Insert the thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

4. Chill your leftovers right away. Anything you do not plan to eat within 2 hours should be stored in the refrigerator. Leftovers will be good for 3 to 4 days. Or, you may freeze leftovers for up to 2 to 6 months for best quality. Always reheat leftovers to 165 degrees.

5. Gravy should boil.

Should you stuff your turkey? Burney has these suggestions. "Cooking the stuffing and turkey separately is less risky than stuffing the turkey. If you do cook them together, stuff the turkey loosely," she said. As with an unstuffed turkey, Burney says chefs should be sure the temperature of a stuffed turkey reaches 165 degrees in the turkey and the center of the dressing.

"Don't forget to let the cooked turkey stand 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving. This time allows the turkey and stuffing to remain at 165 degrees or more for enough time to kill harmful bacteria," Burney said.
For more information about UT Extension's family and consumer sciences programs, contact your local county UT Extension office or visit their website: http://fcs.tennessee.edu/fcs

Carla Y. Bush, MVTE
UT Extension, Cannon County
Family and Consumer Sciences
614 Lehman Street
Woodbury, TN 37190

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