Washing anything makes it cleaner and safer, right? Not necessarily. Wash your hands, but not the turkey! Many consumers think that washing their turkey will remove bacteria and make it safer.
However, it’s virtually impossible to wash bacteria off the bird. Instead, juices that splash during washing can transfer bacteria onto the surfaces of your kitchen, other foods and utensils. This is called cross-contamination, which can make you and your guests very sick. Washing your hands before and after handling your turkey and its packaging is crucial to avoid spreading harmful bacteria. Be sure to wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
This simple, but important step can help keep you and your guests safe from foodborne illness. If your raw turkey or its juices come in contact with kitchen surfaces, wash the counter tops and sinks with hot, soapy water. For extra protection, surfaces may be sanitized with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Be sure to let those areas dry thoroughly. The only way to destroy bacteria on your turkey is to cook it to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Some chefs prefer to cook to a higher temperature for flavor and texture. Therefore, you don’t need to wash your turkey, but you will need a food thermometer on Thanksgiving Day. Remember to check the turkey’s temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and the thickest part of the breast to be sure it is free of illness-causing bacteria. Visit Washing Food: Does It Promote Food Safety? for more information.
Questions? Ask Karen, the virtual food safety representative, is available 24/7 at AskKaren.gov. Weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is available at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).
On Thanksgiving Day, the Hotline will be open from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm Eastern Time. Happy Thanksgiving! -
Where Food Poisoning Begins…It May Surprise You
Where does foodborne illness (commonly called food poisoning) originate? If you guessed “in the kitchen,” you’d be missing a big part of the picture. Although disease detectives can discover germs and toxins from contaminated food (that has made people sick) from the kitchens of private homes and restaurants—these places are not necessarily where harmful viruses and bacteria enter the food.
Food contamination can occur at any point along the food production chain – on farms or fishing vessels, in food processing facilities, during transportation and storage, or at grocery stores and restaurants. Certainly safe food handling in the home does play a critical role in preventing food poisoning which is why government agencies are actively providing consumer education and information on food safety. However, a look at some of the more significant outbreaks over the past year shows that the food was contaminated before it entered the home:
- Salad Products – cyclosporiasis, an intestinal infection caused by the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis, has so far caused more than 640 cases of foodborne illness, some which have been linked to imported salad mixes and some to imported cilantro.
- Cheeses – listeriosis, a bacterial infection, caused by Listeria monocytogenes, was linked to domestically produced products from a company in Wisconsin. The outbreak sickened 6 people, one of whom died and another suffered a miscarriage.
- Pomegranate seeds -- Hepatitis A, a viral infection of the liver, was linked to the imported pomegranate seeds in an organic anti-oxidant fruit blend product. The outbreak made 162 people ill.
- Tahini -- salmonellosis, a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella, was linked to imported tahini, a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds. The outbreak sickened 16 people, including one death.
- Cucumbers -- salmonellosis was linked to imported cucumbers which sickened 84 people.
- Frozen pizza, sandwiches and cheese novelties--E. coli was linked to a variety of frozen pizza, sandwich and cheese products from a plant in Georgia which infected 35 people, two of whom developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
Under the Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA has proposed regulations requiring preventive controls at key points in the farm-to-table food supply chain to help ensure food safety. These new rules would apply to both imported and domestic food products regulated by FDA:
- Preventive Controls for Human Food proposes that food companies—whether they manufacture, process, pack or store food—put controls in place to minimize and reduce the risk of contamination.
- Produce Safety proposes that farms that grow, harvest, pack or hold fruits and vegetables follow standards aimed at preventing their contamination.
- Foreign Supplier Verification Programs proposes that food importers would have to verify that their suppliers are meeting the same U.S. safety standards required of domestic producers.
These new rules will help keep contaminated foods out of the marketplace and out of people’s homes. But that doesn’t lessen the importance of safe food handling by consumers in the home. Contamination can occur or spread in the kitchen. Never ignore the four simple steps to food safety.
There is a new Food Safety public service announcement online with helpful advice on how to keep food safe for consumption. The latest video is called “Contaminated Carbo Load.”
The Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, in partnership with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are launching public service advertisements (PSAs) as part of their national Food Safe Families campaign, the first multimedia effort designed to raise awareness of the risks of foodborne illness in the home.
Foodborne illness is a serious public health threat in the United States. The CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) suffer from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
Created pro bono by ad agency Partners + Napier, the new Food Safe Families PSAs follow the story of Maria, a TV Chef on the fictional show Recipes for Disaster who unintentionally makes the wrong food safety decisions when preparing her dishes. By highlighting her missteps, families receive fun and humorous reminders about how to take steps to reduce their personal risk for food poisoning and highlight the following safe food behaviors:
-- Clean: Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling raw food. Clean all surfaces and utensils with soap and hot water. Wash all produce under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking.
-- Separate: Use separate plates and utensils to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs and foods that are ready to eat (like already cooked foods or raw vegetables).
-- Cook: Cook foods to the safe temperature by using a food thermometer.
-- Chill: Chill foods promptly if not consuming immediately after cooking.
The first Recipe for Disaster “webisode,” “Bacteria BBQ” and Spanish-language version “Bacterias en la barbacoa,” launched in the summer and additional online videos, radio, print, and web advertising will be distributed later this year. All campaign elements direct audiences to visit FoodSafety.gov, where they can learn about food safety practices. Consumers can also access "Ask Karen," an online database with answers to nearly 1,500 questions related to preventing foodborne illnesses in both English and Spanish.
Launched in June of 2012, Food Safe Families is the first joint national multimedia public service campaign designed to help families prevent food poisoning in the home. Since launch, the campaign has received over $57 million in donated media and campaign website, FoodSafety.gov has received over 4 million visits. Per the Ad Council model, the PSAs are distributed to media outlets nationwide and run in air time and space donated by the media.