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Food Safety Tips for Thanksgiving


Baton Rouge, La. (November 18, 2020) – While gatherings may be much smaller this
holiday season because of the pandemic, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike
Strain, D.V.M., is reminding everyone to take proper precautions against foodborne
illnesses, such as Salmonella, when preparing your Thanksgiving holiday meals.

“Anytime you’re handling raw food, you run the risk of getting sick if the food is not
prepared properly,” said Strain. “Thoroughly cooking your turkey and keeping surfaces
clean will prevent illness.”

Here are some tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) on how to safely
prepare food this Thanksgiving:

Tip 1: Don’t Wash That Turkey.

The USDA does not recommend washing raw meat and poultry before cooking. Washing
raw meat and poultry can cause bacteria to spread up to three feet away. Cooking
(baking, broiling, boiling, frying or grilling) meat and poultry to the right temperature
kills any bacteria that may be present, so washing meat and poultry is not necessary.

Tip 2: Use the refrigerator, the cold-water method or the microwave to defrost a frozen

There are three safe ways to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the
microwave oven. Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method because the turkey
will defrost at a consistent, safe temperature. It will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds of
weight for a turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird
in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. For
instructions on microwave defrosting, refer to your microwave’s owner’s manual. Cold
water and microwave thawing can also be used if your bird did not entirely defrost in the

Tip 3: Use a meat thermometer.

The only way to determine if a turkey (or any meat, poultry or seafood) is cooked is to
check its internal temperature with a food thermometer. A whole turkey should be
checked in three locations: the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing
and the thickest part of the breast. Your thermometer should register 165°F in all three of
these places. The juices rarely run clear at this temperature, and when they do the bird is
often overcooked. Using the food thermometer is the best way to ensure your turkey is
cooked, but not overdone.

Tip 4: Leftovers are good in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Cut the turkey off the bone and refrigerate it as soon as you can, within 2 hours of the
turkey coming out of the oven. Leftovers will last for four days in the refrigerator, so if
you know you won’t use them right away, pack them into freezer bags or airtight
containers and freeze. For best quality, use your leftover turkey within four months. After
that, the leftovers will still be safe, but can dry out or lose flavor.

For more information on food safety, consumers can visit
https://www.usda.gov/topics/health-and-safety or FoodSafety.gov.

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