OK, we’re at T-minus one day and counting.
The menu is planned, the shopping is done and the big bird is thawing. There’s really not much left to worry about at this point. Except trying not to kill your guests.
Food poisoning is serious business and reported cases often spike around the holidays. Here’s what you can do to avoid spending your holiday laid up in bed – either yours or one at the hospital …
- Wash your hands often, especially in between handling foods that are dry and wet.
- Before preparing food, carefully clean counters, cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water. Repeat cleaning in between recipes, especially if you have raw meat or leafy greens on the cutting board, both of which can carry salmonella.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
- If you purchased a turkey fresh and not frozen, refrigerate it immediately. For a frozen turkey, allow lots of time for it to thaw – about 2 hours of thaw time per five pounds of turkey. Thaw a turkey a high walled pan placed in the refrigerator, and do not let the water touch any other food.
- It is safest not to stuff a turkey, but rather put herbs inside the cavity to season it. If you must stuff, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing which must reach 165° F. Stuffings with meat or shellfish (oyster) ingredients are risky. Always cook these on the stove top or in the oven, and not in the turkey.
- A significant risk of food poisoning comes from undercooking the turkey. You can’t tell it’s done by how it looks! While recipes give you hints about testing for “doneness,” such as a golden brown color or seeing juices run clear, these may not be accurate. The only way to make sure your bird is cooked sufficiently to be safe to eat is to measure the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It must reach 165 degrees F.
- It may not be in mom’s recipe, but bring gravy to a full boil before serving.
- Keep cold food like salads, Jell-O molds and salad dressing refrigerated until just before serving. Once dinner is over, refrigerate leftovers. If food has been sitting out for two hours or more, it may not be safe to eat.
- Use pasteurized eggs in homemade recipes.
- After eating, take the remaining meat off the bird and store in a shallow container in the refrigerator. Don’t put an entire carcass into the refrigerator — it won’t cool down quickly enough.
So how do you know if those cramps you’re feeling are innocent indigestion or something more sinister?
Food poisoning can cause fever, stomach pain, vomiting and/or diarrhea, often leading to dehydration. These signs usually appear within six, but up to 48, hours after eating or drinking a contaminated food or beverage. For the elderly, children, infants, pregnant woman and people suffering from compromised immune systems, food poisoning can be severe. When in doubt, get it checked out.