Summit County Health Department is advising residents how to avoid getting ill this Thanksgiving.
Summit County Health Department Inspector Kelly Gallo says with turkey being the centerpiece to Thursday’s meal there’s an increased risk of salmonella on Thanksgiving. Gallo says prevention of salmonella starts with defrosting your turkey.
"You never want to leave it out at room temperature,” Gallo explained. “You want to give yourself ample time for your bird to defrost. I believe it's one day per 4-5 pounds of turkey and you want to keep it at 41 degrees or colder. That's why it's best to keep it in the refrigerator for that time that it's defrosting. There are other ways to do it if you didn't plan far enough ahead, but you have to be very careful. You don't want to leave the bird out on the counter at room temperature. You can put it in running water and by running water I don't mean hot water; I mean cold water. Or, you can leave it sitting in a thing of cold water in its original package sealed up, so it doesn't get contaminated, but you have to change out that water every 30 minutes or more.”
If your refrigerator is too small you can keep it in a cooler, but you have to make sure the temperature doesn’t rise above 41 degrees. Gallo says the next step is to make sure your bird is cooked thoroughly.
“So, you want to make sure you have a meat thermometer and make sure you're measuring the thickest part of the turkey,” Gallo said. “So, getting into the breast or into the deep part of the thigh. Making sure you get to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.”
Gallo also warns about cross contamination.
“Well when you're preparing your turkey one of the things a lot of folks do, I think I heard today it was about 65% of people, will rinse their turkey,” Gallo continued. “You don't need to rinse it. One of the things that can happen there is splash back from the water rinsing off your turkey, so you just spreading your salmonella around your kitchen essentially. Then when you prepare your vegetables you don't want to prepare them on the same surfaces that you prepared your turkey on. You don’t want to get that cross contamination onto your other foods.”
Gallo also emphasized the importance of washing your hands for those both preparing and eating a Thanksgiving meal.