Properly prepare Thanksgiving bird to cut salmonella risk

World | 21 Nov 2018 8:45 pm

There is no reason to skip Thanksgiving dinner because of a salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey.

That is according to health officials who have been monitoring the year-old outbreak. But they say it is a reminder to properly prepare your holiday bird. Cooking kills salmonella.

The ongoing outbreak and recall last week of ground turkey may nevertheless leave you with a few questions when reaching for a plate of turkey.

Salmonella is considered widespread in poultry, and it’s perfectly legal for supermarkets to sell raw turkey that has the bacteria. Part of the rationale for allowing salmonella is that people don’t eat chicken medium rare, said Timothy Lytton, a Georgia State University law professor. In 1974, a court said that "American housewives and cooks normally are not ignorant and stupid” and that they know how to prepare food so people don’t get sick.

Even though salmonella is not prohibited in raw meat or poultry, regulators check to make sure the number of samples at processing plants that test positive for the bacteria is within standards. Rules are tighter for whole turkeys, and the industry says the chances of finding salmonella in whole birds are "exceedingly low.”

The turkey industry cites steps it takes to reduce risk, such as the use of antimicrobial rinses.

The rules differ for other products. For instance, salmonella is not allowed in packaged foods that are not cooked to kill germs.

Since it began last year, the outbreak linked to raw turkey has caused one death and 164 reported illnesses in 35 states.

Salmonella spreads through animal feces. It is blamed for an estimated 1 million cases of food poisoning a year, with symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps. Whether someone gets sick depends on the strength of the strain, the amount and the person’s susceptibility, the USDA notes. But the agency says cooking should kill salmonella.

WHAT SHOULD COOKS DO?

Health officials say proper handling and cooking should kill any salmonella. A few points to remember:

— It seems counterintuitive, but don’t rinse raw turkey — that can spread any germs.

— Clean hands and cooking surfaces that come into contact with raw turkey.

— Cook birds to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.

Hormel’s Richard Carlson stressed salmonella in turkey is not unusual and that proper handling and cooking should get rid of it. Regulators, though, say to throw it out.-AP

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