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Keep Food Safety Top of Mind During Holidays

by 5m Editor
23 December 2011, at 8:00am

CANADA - A food microbiology professor with the University of Manitoba is advising chefs to ensure they cook their turkeys thoroughly to protect against foodborne illness during the holiday season, Bruce Cochrane writes.

During the busy holiday season, incidents of foodborne illness involving turkey tend to increase, largely related to improper cooking.

To ensure the endpoint temperature reaches 82 °C the use of a meat thermometer inserted just between the thigh and the upper part of the leg is recommended.

Dr Rick Holley, a food safety and food microbiology professor with the University of Manitoba, explains, for convenience, a large bird is often cooked in two phases where the turkey is partially cooked the night prior and then finished off the day of its use, and that proves to be problematic.

Dr Rick Holley-University of Manitoba

The whole cook process should go from start to finish and achieve that end point temperature in one sequential activity in order to kill all of the pathogenic bacteria that might be present.

We know that poultry is very frequently contaminated with salmonella and it depends on the geographic region but upwards of 40 to 60 per cent of poultry are contaminated with salmonella and again depending on where you live you can see 80 to 100 per cent of chickens that are contaminated with campylobacter and of course campylobacter are also on turkey as well.

Both of these organisms cause illness which in very young people and the elderly can be extremely serious.


Dr Holley advises against stuffing the bird but rather cooking the stuffing separately in a casserole dish.

He explains the problem is heat penetration and, if you stuff the turkey, the outside will be overdone before the internal temperature of the stuffing reaches the point at which pathogenic bacteria will be killed.