Holiday Food Preparation Safety Reminders


From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale Burstein

November 25, 2013

CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov; Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925

Holiday Food Preparation Safety Reminders

Don’t be a Turkey when it comes to Food Safety!

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Whether you're a seasoned chef or a novice preparing your first holiday meal, the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) encourages you to use the safest ways to thaw, prepare, stuff, and cook your turkey.

“It is essential that you thaw turkeys while keeping them at a safe temperature. Foodborne bacteria multiplies rapidly between 40°F and 140°F. A frozen turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again.” states Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health.  “Turkeys can be thawed one of three ways: in a refrigerator, in cold water, or in a microwave oven.”

Cleanliness is integral in proper preparation! Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces during your holiday dinner preparation. If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw poultry can contaminate other foods. Poultry may contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter that can cause infectious diarrhea and more serious complications.

“After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before touching other foods.” continues Dr. Burstein.  “Also, it is essential that your turkey reaches a safe internal minimum temperature of 165°F. To ensure safe home food preparation, be sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.”

Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of preparation. Leaving food at room temperature too long is one of the biggest holiday food safety problems. When food sits outs for more than two hours in the danger zone -- above 40 degrees and below 140 degrees -- it is prime for bacterial growth. Store leftovers in 2-inch deep, shallow containers and make sure the refrigerator is not over-packed, thereby allowing plenty of air to circulate so food can be properly cooled.

Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees. Filling a plate with food and popping it into the microwave for a few minutes may seem safe enough. But, a thermometer needs to be used to make sure all the food is reheated enough to kill bacteria. Microwaves heat in an uneven manner, so let the covered food sit for one to two minutes to allow the heat to destroy bacteria that may have been present.

For detailed instructions and additional advice on safely preparing holiday meals, residents are encourage to access numerous informative websites on the internet as well as turkey manufacturers’  toll-free numbers.

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