Turkey is a traditional holiday dish for many families but most of us only roast a full bird once or twice a year.
BCCDC food safety specialists say the key to preventing illness is to use a food thermometer to check the bird’s internal temperature to know when it’s done.
The magic number is 74 Celsius to ensure you’ve killed all harmful bacteria. Cooking the bird to 74 Celsius or hotter prevents sickness caused by Salmonella, a type of bacteria often found in poultry products, including chickens, eggs and turkey.
To check, stick the thermometer into the meatiest part of the bird, either a couple of inches into the breast or the inner thigh, near the breast. It’s best to cook stuffing separately in a casserole dish to make sure it cooks thoroughly. If you decide to cook your stuffing in the turkey, stuff the bird just before cooking and use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s centre also reaches 74 Celsius or hotter.
There is an ongoing Salmonella
outbreak that includes 22 confirmed cases in Canada and more in the U.S
. Today, the Public Health Agency of Canada issued a health alert
about the risks of exposure to raw turkey and chicken.
Nine British Columbians have become ill with a Salmonella infection that has been linked to turkey and chicken meat. People who become ill because of a Salmonella infection experience gastrointestinal problems and symptoms like fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, headache, nausea and vomiting.
While cooking your bird all the way will help prevent illness, it’s also important to take other precautions to avoid the spread of bacteria and foodborne illness over the holidays:
- Keep raw meat and fish separated from other foods and stored in a refrigerator until it’s time to use. Thaw frozen poultry products in the fridge prior to cooking.
- Wash your hands and cooking surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after preparing food. It’s especially important to wash down surfaces after preparing raw meat.
- Never rinse raw poultry before cooking because it can spread bacteria wherever the water splashes.
- Always cook turkey and poultry products to a safe internal temperature of 74 Celsius to kill any harmful bacteria.
- Cook stuffing separately in a casserole dish to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. If you put stuffing in the turkey, do so just before cooking. Use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s centre also reaches 74 Celsius or hotter.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until you are ready to serve.
- Refrigerate leftovers promptly so you can enjoy them the next day. Eat leftovers within two to three days.
- Food thermometers can make a great last-minute Christmas gift.
- If you feel unwell, and especially if you have symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting, do not cook or prepare food for other people.