Washing turkeys - dispelling that and other Thanksgiving myths

USDA advice to prevent visit from foodborne illness this holiday

WPVI logo
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Washing turkeys - dispelling that and other Thanksgiving myths
Washing turkeys - dispelling that and other Thanksgiving myths: Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5pm on November 21, 2017.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPVI) -- Many people are getting ready to prepare Thanksgiving Day dinner.

In fact, an estimated 46 million turkeys will be cooked

But first, the US Department of Agriculture wants to remind home cooks of some food safety basics.

The good news is a U-S-D-A survey found that most people are washing their hands more during food prep.

But unfortunately, they're also still washing turkeys before cooking.

"They've seen their parents do it, their grandparents do it, and now they do it. We do not recommend washing the turkey or any kind of poultry, because all you're doing is spreading bacteria around your sink, around your countertops, and other places around your kitchen," says Tanya Brown of the USDA.

Brown says germs are also spread around when cooks don't use separate plates and utensils for meat and vegetables.

Or when plates used for raw meat are re-used for cooked food.

Several commonly-used "time-saving" practices can also lead to food poisoning, such as: stuffing the turkey the night before, thawing a frozen bird on the counter, and serving a turkey just because the skin looks golden and the juices run clear.

Brown says a meat thermometer is a must to make sure the turkey cooks to 165 degrees.

Check temperatures in the thickest parts, such as the thigh.

And be sure to measure in the flesh, not at the bone, where temperatures may be much higher.

After dinner, get food into the refrigeration within 2 hours.

"You want to package up all your leftovers in shallow containers and get them immediately into the refrigerator. They will be safe in the refrigerator until Monday after Thanksgiving," says Brown.

Foodborne illnesses cause about 3,000 deaths and 128,000 hospitalizations every year.

To learn more about reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses, see www.foodsafety.gov or call the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

It's open weekdays from 10 AM to 6 PM, but will be open Thanksgiving Day from 8 AM to 2 PM.

You can also get information 24/7 on "Ask Karen," an online database of frequently asked questions.