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  • Talking Turkey

    "Eat fish this year" --signed, the Turkey
    Americans bring 45 million turkeys to the table each year.

    Thanksgiving, a holiday famous for its food, is also famous for food-related illnesses. Most holiday food poisonings are related to either eggs or poultry, and kids are at a higher risk. Here's how you can keep your holiday dinner from biting back.

    • Never eat any dishes that contain raw eggs, or sample precooked egg mixtures such as cookie dough or brownie mix. Even fresh, unbroken eggs can harbor bacteria. Keep kids out of the kitchen when preparing these dishes.

    • Never buy a pre-stuffed turkey. It may sound like a time saver, but the inside of the turkey acts like an incubator, keeping the stuffing at a higher temperature than the rest of the bird. A home refrigerator can't keep the stuffing cold enough. If you insist on pre-stuffed, choose turkey breast or pork chops; both are safer alternatives.

    • If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure it thaws completely before you cook it. Still-frozen spots may not reach the temperature necessary to kill harmful bacteria.

    • If you buy a pre-cooked turkey, plan to serve it within 2 hours after you pick it up. Otherwise, carve the meat, remove the stuffing and refrigerate both separately.

    • When you prepare your turkey, give it your full attention-don't prepare other dishes simultaneously, and keep kids out of the kitchen. Wash your hands and all utensils and surfaces with hot, soapy water before moving on to the next task.

    • Rinse the bird inside and outside with cold water before you cook it.

    • Cook the stuffing separately. Because most stuffing contains eggs, prepare it as close to dinnertime as possible. If you must stuff the bird, do it at the last minute, and insert a separate meat thermometer into the stuffing to ensure that it reaches 165 F (74 C). Use a conventional oven in this case-a stuffed turkey is too dense to safely cook in a microwave.

    • Always use a meat thermometer. Insert it into the innermost part of the thigh and make sure the temperature reaches at least 180 F (82 C). You may have to adjust your cooking time-recipes that require the turkey to cook longer at a lower temperature may not raise the temperature enough to kill harmful bacteria.

    • If chitterlings are a part of your holiday feast, take care in preparing them. Small children are at risk of poisoning if they are exposed to raw chitterlings. For safety's sake, don't come in contact with children while you prepare the chitterlings. Thoroughly clean all utensils and surfaces immediately afterwards.

    • You have 2 hours before cooked turkey turns ugly. Never leave a platter of meat out all day for family to snack on. A better idea is to serve the main meal, refrigerate leftovers, and then bring them out later in the evening. Always refrigerate different types of leftovers in separate, shallow containers.

    • Remember, a turkey doesn't have nine lives. Leftover turkey should be safe to eat for 3-4 days. Other leftovers may have a shorter shelf-life depending on ingredients, for example, stuffing and gravy will only keep 1-2 days. Always boil gravy before serving it.

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