CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Foodborne illnesses are responsible for more than 125,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year. And many of your common practices in the kitchen could lead to sickness this holiday.
Janell Goodwin, USDA Food Safety Expert, said to defrost a turkey properly, do it in the refrigerator, not at room temperature on a counter. She suggests allowing 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey.
If you still need to defrost a turkey on Thanksgiving Day, you can safely defrost the bird in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
“A 12 pound turkey would take about six hours to thaw,” said Goodwin.
Goodwin says if you’re responsible for preparing the turkey this Thanksgiving, don’t wash it, as it will only contribute to cross-contamination.
“Bacteria clings so well to the turkey that it’s almost impossible to clean it off no matter how well you wash it, you won’t kill the bacteria,” said Goodwin.
Bring the meat up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure all bacteria has been destroyed.
Home cooks should also be mindful of separating utensils that have touched raw items, like knives and cutting boards. Goodwin suggests using paper towels to dispense soap and operate the sink so those surfaces aren’t contaminated.
As always, the USDA emphasizes good, and frequent hand washing with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that when it comes to hand washing before and during meals, consumers are failing to properly clean their hands 97 percent of the time. Additionally, more than 80 percent of participants inadvertently contaminated food and other surfaces. USDA found that spice containers, soap dispensers and cutting boards were the most frequently contaminated surfaces.
And what about leftovers? Goodwin says don’t let your guests graze for too long on turkey day. Two hours should be the limit for keeping cooked items out on the table, according to the USDA."
“After two hours pass, bacteria, specifically spoilage bacteria, tend to multiply rapidly,”
Store leftovers in shallow containers to allow them to cool down quicker. And once stored, Goodwin says leftovers are good for four days.
Approximately 46 million turkeys will be cooked in the U.S. this holiday.