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(BPT) - Think of the holiday season and answer this question: The holidays are the only time of year I do … what?
Maybe it’s the only time of year you set up a Christmas tree, hang mistletoe or travel to a certain destination. For many, the holidays are also the only time of year that you prepare the traditional holiday meal.
And that can lead to trouble.
Each year in the U.S., one in six people will experience food poisoning. There are 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 patient deaths that can be traced back to foodborne pathogens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's especially dangerous for young children, the elderly, pregnant women and others with weakened immune systems.
Improper food preparation is one of the most common causes of food poisoning, and the risk increases during the holidays when people try to make lavish meals they would otherwise not prepare. To help keep you and your family safe this season, The Partnership for Food Safety Education — supported by Cargill, Costco Wholesale and the Frozen Food Foundation — is launching The Story of Your Dinner campaign and sharing safe preparation tips for a holiday staple: the turkey dinner.
Preparing the perfect holiday turkey this season
* Plan for one pound of meat per person. If a frozen turkey works best for you, allow the bird to thaw for several days in the refrigerator. Generally, you will need to plan one day for every four pounds of turkey to ensure your bird completely thaws. While your turkey is thawing, keep it on the bottom shelf in a rimmed baking pan to prevent juices from spreading.
* Do not rinse your raw turkey. Rinsing the turkey is not a safety step and can increase the risk of spreading bacteria to the sink and other surfaces.
* For optimum safety, cook stuffing in a casserole. Because stuffing is an excellent medium for bacterial growth, it's important to handle it safely and cook it to a safe minimum internal temperature (at least 165 F) as measured with a food thermometer.
* Cook your turkey to at least 165 F and always use a food thermometer to ensure your turkey reaches this safe internal temperature.
* When checking to see if your turkey is done, insert the food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
* Put extra turkey, stuffing and other leftovers in the fridge within 2 hours. Consume, freeze or discard leftovers within 3 or 4 days.
The annual turkey dinner is a seasonal staple. A little extra preparation can make the meal as satisfying and enjoyable as the rest of the holidays. To learn more about safe food preparation and find a complete turkey roasting chart, visit StoryofYourDinner.org.