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Let the gourd times roll, but don’t forget food and COVID-19 safety

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is urging everyone to stay safe this holiday weekend by following safe cooking and food handling practices, and remembering their  COVID-19 safety precautions. 
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​The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is urging everyone to stay safe this holiday weekend by following safe cooking and food handling practices, and remembering their  COVID-19 safety precautions.  

Remember to cook your turkey thoroughly 

“Having diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps is not a great way to spend your holidays which is why it’s very important to properly prepare and cook poultry to reduce the risk of foodborne illness,” says Dr. Eleni Galanis, physician epidemiologist with the BCCDC. “Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after food prep and that you sanitize kitchen areas that may be exposed to raw poultry. In addition, having a meat thermometer is key to finding out if your turkey is properly cooked.” 

Turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 74 degrees Celsius or hotter to prevent sickness caused by Salmonella, a type of bacteria often found in poultry products, including chickens, eggs and turkey. Use a food thermometer to check the bird’s internal temperature by inserting it into the breast or the inner thigh.

Salmonella infection causes symptoms including diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps that develop 12 to 72 hours after exposure and usually lasts four to seven days. If you feel unwell, and especially if you are experiencing these symptoms, do not cook or prepare food for others.

"Another important turkey tip is that if you are cooking stuffing inside the bird, use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing also reaches 74 degrees Celsius or hotter,” said Lorraine McIntyre, food safety specialist, BCCDC. “After your meal, any leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours to avoid bacterial growth. Eat your leftovers within two to three days or freeze them for later.” 

Top tips on handling raw poultry:
  • Wash your hands and cooking surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after preparing food. It is especially important to wash down surfaces after preparing raw meat.
  • Keep raw meat separated from other foods and stored in the bottom of your refrigerator until it’s time to use. Ensure raw turkey and chicken juices don’t drip down onto other foods. Thaw frozen poultry products in the fridge or in cold water prior to cooking.
  • Never rinse raw poultry before cooking because it can spread bacteria wherever the water splashes. Use paper towels to dry and discard in compost right away to prevent cross contamination.
  • If you decide to brine your turkey, ensure the brine is cold before immersing your turkey and keep the brine and the turkey in the refrigerator until it’s time to cook. 
Have safer, smaller celebrations

Due to COVID-19, it is extra important this year that you do not host or attend gatherings if you feel unwell.

 “Our fall and winter celebrations will look different this year,” said Dr. Galanis. “Continue to practice what we’ve all learned to help prevent spreading COVID-19 in our communities and to others who may be at higher risk for severe illness.”

  • Keep gathering small, local and within your usual social group
  • Consider celebrating virtually with family and friends or getting together outdoors
  • If you plan an indoor visit, keep numbers small and limit your time together indoors. 
  • Choose a larger space where guests can spread out or sit with others in their household.
  • Everyone should wash their hands before eating 
  • Avoid buffet style or sharing serving utensils.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces people will touch often like door handles, faucets, and toilets.
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