Holiday Food Preparation Safety Reminders; Don't be a Turkey when it comes to Food Safety!

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November 18, 2015                              

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

PhotoCleanliness is integral in proper preparation, as 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 thoroughly before touching other foods.” continues Dr. Burstein.  “During cooking, it is essential that your turkey reaches a safe internal minimum temperature of 165°F. If you choose to stuff your turkey, the stuffing inside the turkey should also be cooked to at least 165°F. In addition, to ensure your dinner’s safety, please be sure to keep the hot foods hot and the cold foods cold.

Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of preparation. Leaving food at room temperature too long is one of the biggest holiday food safety mistakes. When food sits outs for more than two hours in the danger zone -- above 40 degrees and below 140 degrees -- it is at high risk 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.

When reheating leftovers, ensure they reach a temperature of 165°F. Filling a plate with food, covering it and popping it into the microwave for a few minutes may seem safe enough. But to be sure, a thermometer should be used to make sure all the food on the plate is reheated sufficiently to kill any bacteria. Since microwaves heat in an uneven manner and vary in power levels, let reheated and covered food sit covered for another one to two minutes to allow the heat to further penetrate the food and 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.

For more information

Erie County Department of Health – Food Safety & Security

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - It's Turkey Time: Safely Prepare Your Holiday Meal

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – Turkey Basics at

United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service - Let's Talk Turkey – A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey  

Western New York Frozen & Refrigerated Food Association – Food Preparation Tips

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