Turkey tips: avoid food poisoning this Thanksgiving

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – The Palmetto Poison Center at USC’s College of Pharmacy is offering up tips for South Carolinians enjoying a home cooked meal this Thanksgiving.

Here are their tips for properly thawing, preparing and storing the main attraction – the turkey:

  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of shopping or preparing.
  • When thawing in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds of meat – thawing meat on the counter at room temperature is not safe.
  • Submerging the turkey in cold tap water is also a method for thawing. Make sure the bird is in a leak-proof container and change the water every 30 minutes until thawed.
  • Never place fresh fruit or vegetables or cooked food in the same container or on the same surface that raw food has touched.
  • Always wash your hands after handling raw meat. Scrub hands, wrists, fingernails and in between fingers with soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers immediately.

“One of the major issues over the holidays concerns improperly cooking the stuffing that is placed inside the bird,” states Dr. Jill Michels a Clinical Pharmacist and Director of the poison center. “Even if the bird is cooked correctly, stuffing may not have reached the temperature necessary to kill potentially harmful bacteria.”

Here are some tips for cooking the bird (and its side attractions):

  • Cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. If you place it inside the turkey, do so just after thoroughly cooking the turkey.
  • Set oven temperature no lower than 325oF and make sure the turkey is completely thawed.
  •  Cook the bird breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep.
  • Check the temperature at the meaty portion of the breast, thigh and wing. The safe minimum internal temperature is 165oF.
  • The USDA issues the following recommendations for cooking your Thanksgiving bird:
      • 8-12 pound birds should cook from 2 ¾ to 3 hours
      • 12-14 pound birds should cook from 3 to 3 ¾ hours
      • 14-18 pound birds should cook from 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours

Some of the most obvious signs of food poisoning are nausea/vomiting, diarrhea and fever that lasts longer than 48 hours.

The Palmetto Poison Center is staffed by trained nurses and pharmacists who can provide expert information when food poisoning occurs.  Services are free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To contact the Palmetto Poison Center, call 1-800-222-1222.

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