Eat safe this Thanksgiving

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2017

With Thanksgiving around the corner many people have their hopes set on a turkey dinner.

Considered one of the most elaborate meals of the year, Thanksgiving dinner is a succulent spread of family favorites. With so much food to prepare, there is plenty of room for health and food safety risks.

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Therefore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service is sharing tips to make Thanksgiving a safe, healthy and stress-free occasion.

FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker, in a report issued by the organization, said turkey and other meat and poultry products might contain salmonella and campylobacter that can lead to serious foodborne illness.

The key is to properly handle and cook the turkey to kill any harmful pathogens.

“We just want people to have a safe and happy Thanksgiving,” said Tanya Brown, Public Affairs Team Leader at the USDA.

Brown encourages everyone to follow these tips for a healthy Thanksgiving.

In the first step Brown says anyone preparing food should wash their hands.

Next, avoid washing the turkey with water.

“The biggest myth people have is the need to wash the turkey, but the fact is washing any meat or poultry can spread more bacteria, contaminating countertops, sinks and other kitchen equipment,” Brown said.

The only exception to this rule is brining the bird. When using brine, be sure to remove everything from the kitchen counter and cover any tabletops.

Also, avoid cross contamination by cooking the turkey and stuffing separately.

In order to know whether the turkey is completely cooked, use a food thermometer.

“It is important to measure the temperature of the turkey particularly in three areas, the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and thigh must measure at 165 degrees F. If any of these parts do not register the desired temperature it is best to pop the turkey in the oven again,” Brown said.

Lastly, lots of food means a lot of leftovers so Brown highly recommends putting leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of it being ready to eat. Not doing so could cause bacteria to multiply.

For further information, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888- 674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert. Live chat is available at, available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, in English and Spanish.

For assistance on Thanksgiving Day, the Meat and Poultry Hotline is available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.ET.

Consumers with food safety questions can visit to learn more about how to safely select, thaw and prepare a turkey.