Ensuring a happy holiday

Tips for safely preparing that festive turkey and other Thanksgiving food

Kindergarten student Greyden Zimmermann proudly displays his prize from the BX Elementary turkey trot.

Kindergarten student Greyden Zimmermann proudly displays his prize from the BX Elementary turkey trot.

The food safety specialists at the BC Centre for Disease Control have some tips for safely preparing that festive turkey and other Thanksgiving food.

Proper food handling is especially important because turkey can, in the right conditions, become contaminated with bacteria like Salmonella. This can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, and dehydration. It can also lead to more serious complications, especially in infants, the elderly, and other immune compromised people. As many as 650,000 people become ill due to foodborne illness in BC each year.

You can help to prevent foodborne illness by being careful when you prepare and store food including turkey:

Shop safely. Bag raw meat, poultry, and fish separately from other food items.

Wash your hands and working surfaces with hot soapy water before you begin preparing food.

Cook foods including the holiday turkey to an internal temperature of at least 74C (165F).  Check the temperature with a probe tip thermometer in several different areas of the cooked turkey.  .

Serve foods safely. Keep cooked hot foods hot [60°C (140°F) or above] and cold foods cold [4°C (40°F) or below].

Follow labels on food packaging. These labels provide information about when to use the food and how to store it.

Refrigerate leftover foods from your holiday meal within two hours of serving it.  Don’t leave leftovers to cool on the counter overnight.

When in doubt, throw it out. If you aren’t sure if a food is safe, don’t eat it. Reheating food that is contaminated won’t make it safe.

If you have more questions, the BCCDC has some answers and lots of great tips.  Download our ‘Talking Turkey’ fact sheet at: http://www.bccdc.ca

The BC Centre for Disease Control, (BCCDC) an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides provincial and national leadership in public health through surveillance, detection, treatment, prevention and consultation services. The centre provides both direct diagnostic and treatment services for people with diseases of public health importance and analytical and policy support to all levels of government and health authorities.

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across B.C., working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca.