Reduce the risk of food-borne illness during the holiday season
NEWMARKET – York Region Health Services reminds residents that food-borne illness, also known as “food poisoning,” may happen if improper techniques are used when buying, preparing and storing your holiday turkey.
Follow these food safety tips to help reduce the risk of food-borne illness during this festive season:
Buying a turkey
• Check the “best before” date on fresh turkeys because it indicates the freshness of the turkey.
• Frozen, well wrapped turkeys can be kept in the freezer for up to one year.
• If buying a frozen turkey, allow four to six days for thawing in the refrigerator (depending on the size).
• If buying fresh turkey, purchase it no more than two days before cooking. It should be cold when bought then immediately refrigerated at home at a temperature of 4°C (40°F) or lower.
• At the grocery store, the turkey should be the last item selected before proceeding to the
• Do not let the turkey come into contact with other items in the grocery cart. Put the turkey in a separate plastic bag to avoid cross-contaminating other food items.
Thawing the turkey
• Never thaw your turkey on the kitchen counter.
• Place the turkey in the refrigerator in a large container or on a platter big enough to prevent leaking juices from contaminating other foods in the refrigerator. Place on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent juices from dripping onto other food items.
• Start thawing the frozen turkey in the refrigerator several days before roasting. Allow 24 hours of defrosting time for every 2.5 kg (5 pounds) of turkey (i.e. 5 hours/lb. or 10 hours/kg).
• Turkey can be defrosted under cold running water, but it should be wrapped in leak proof
plastic to help prevent cross-contamination.
• If thawing turkey in the microwave, cook the turkey immediately after thawing is complete.
Preparing the turkey
• Thoroughly clean your hands, the counter and all utensils before and after preparing the turkey.
• Immediately after preparing the turkey, wash and sanitize the sink, counter tops, utensils and anything else that came in contact with the turkey with a mild bleach solution (e.g., 1 tsp./5 ml of household bleach per 4 cups/1 litre water). Rinse with clean water.
• Do not let any juices from the turkey come in contact with other food or food preparation
Cooking the turkey
• Never slow-cook turkey. Set the oven no lower than 177° C (350°F) and use a probe
thermometer to check that the turkey reaches a minimum internal temperature of 82°C (180°F).
• The stuffing should reach a minimum internal temperature of 74°C (165°F).
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• For whole turkey: near the end of the cooking time, remove meat from heat and insert a probe
thermometer into the thickest part of the breast or thigh meat, so the thermometer does not touch any
bone. If the proper temperature has been achieved, the food is safe to eat. If the food has not reached the proper temperature, continue cooking. Always wash the probe thermometer and other utensils you used on raw or partially cooked food items before using them to check food items again.
• If you choose to serve a pre-cooked, stuffed turkey which is purchased hot, be sure to keep it in the oven to keep the turkey at least 60°C (140°F) or above and eat it within two hours of purchase. If you will be eating this turkey more than two hours after buying it, the stuffing should be removed and both it and the bird should be refrigerated to 4°C (40°F) or lower as soon as possible after purchase.
Serving the turkey
• Serve turkey and stuffing immediately. Keep the rest of the turkey and stuffing hot at a
minimum 60°C (140°F) in the oven. Replace empty platters with hot food from the oven.
• Refrigerate leftovers promptly in uncovered, shallow containers so they cool quickly. Once food is cooled, cover.
• Remove meat from the bone. Store meat, stuffing and gravy separately in shallow containers to cool them quickly.
• Re-heat leftovers to 74°C (165°F) or higher. Bring gravy to a full, rolling boil and stir during the re-heating process.
• Use leftovers within two days.
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold
As a general rule when preparing or serving food items, keep food out of the “danger zone,” which is between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F). To do this, keep hot food items hot, at least 60°C (140°F), and keep cold food items cold at 4°C (40°F) or colder.
For more information on safe food handling practices or other health-related questions, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit www.york.ca
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For more information on the Regional Municipality of York and the services our Region offers, please visit our Web site at: www.york.ca
Prepared with materials from the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI), Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Canadian Partnership for Food Safety Education.