Tips for a food safe Thanksgiving dinner are popping up, so Chapman and I, always eager to jump on a bandwagon, came up with our own.
1. Never wash the Thanksgiving turkey. Research from the U.K. and elsewhere shows that washing turkey or chicken is an ideal way to spread dangerous bacteria throughout the kitchen or food preparation area. Washing under running water can spray surface contamination up to three feet away.
2. Never place a whole turkey over your head. While it may be a popular attempt at comedy in movies and television shows like “Mr. Bean” or “Friends,” do not inspect the internal cavity of the turkey by placing it over your head. This is potentially the most contaminated part of the turkey.
3. Make sure to use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer to ensure the turkey has reached 165 F. Color is an inadequate indicator of safety so always use a thermometer to test the turkey before serving.
4. Cool leftover turkey quickly. Refrigerate leftover turkey within two hours of taking it out of the oven. Some spore-forming bacteria will grow and form toxins if kept at room temperature for too long. Turkey should be cooled to 41 F quickly and this is best accomplished by placing sliced leftover turkey in reseal-able bags of one quart or smaller size. Bags should be laid flat in the refrigerator to allow cool air to circulate.
5. Do not pass babies with leaky diapers around the holiday table. This can lead to all kinds of food contamination, and does not end well for anyone at the table.
A table of holiday-meal related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/turkey-related-outbreaks.