The holiday season is just around the corner and thoughts are turning to preparation of holiday fare. When friends and family gather together to share a feast, the last thing they want is illness resulting from food poisoning, which usually results from improper food handling practices. It often strikes more than one person and is generally a mild, but uncomfortable illness.
Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, and often vomiting. The culprit in all food poisoning incidents is bacteria. Harmful bacteria enter our bodies in contaminated food and, if conditions are right, they can produce toxins. We eat the food along with the toxin, and we may become ill.
Salmonella is one of the most common causes of food-borne illness. More than two million cases of Salmonella poisoning are believed to occur in the United States each year. Fortunately, it is rarely fatal. Salmonella is found in raw meats, poultry, eggs, milk, and fish. Looking at or smelling food will not alert you to the presence of Salmonella bacteria. The bacteria are destroyed by heat so it is important to cook foods thoroughly above 140 F. Following proper food preparation tips, ensures you can safely enjoy your culinary delights.
Food contamination can be prevented by:
- Washing your hands before and after handling raw foods.
- Keeping all dishes, utensils, kitchen equipment and work surfaces clean.
- Washing knives and cutting surfaces after cutting raw meat to avoid spreading bacteria to other food items. Salmonella bacteria are often present in turkey, even when it’s frozen.
- Thawing the turkey in the refrigerator, not out on the counter.
- Cleaning the turkey thoroughly.
- Serving hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Do not leave food unheated or unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours. If foods are to be kept longer than 3 to 4 days, the temperature in your refrigerator should be below 40 degrees.
- Cooking the turkey immediately after stuffing – don’t keep an uncooked stuffed turkey in the refrigerator.
- Storing stuffing that has been made in advance in a separate container.
- Removing any stuffing before you refrigerate leftover meat. Gravy and broth should be stored separately, too.
- Putting leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as the meal is over. It is important to cool things quickly.
Thawing time in the refrigerator for a whole turkey:
8 - 12 lb.—1 to 2 days 16 – 20 lb.—3 to 4 days
12 –16 lb.—2 to 3 days 20 to 24 lb.—4 to 5 days
If you suspect a poisoning in your family, don’t wait for symptoms – call the Indiana Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. Poison Center experts are standing by 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help with poison emergencies.