By Katie Keiger
It is the most wonderful time of the year, not just for people but also for germs. The cold weather keeping people indoors, the large amounts of food being prepared and the inexperience of some people in the kitchens is an open invitation for salmonella to join the party.
The common misconception is that salmonella is primarily contracted by chickens and eggs, but that is not entirely true. Milk, cheese and even raw vegetables can lead to salmonella infections in people. Jeanna Bryner of Live Science understands the health risk, specifically regarding fruits and vegetables and salmonella, and how proper washing techniques can help reduce these risks.
She said that vegetables and fruits with rough skin need to be washed thoroughly to get rid of all the germs that could possibly be lurking inside. She added that salmonella is usually contracted in foods through the contaminated soil or other materials they could come in contact with while being processed. Produce that needs to be kept cool should be kept in refrigerators that are 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
The USDA states that turkeys should also be kept at the same temperature for 24 hours for every four to five pounds of bird to be defrosted. If the turkey is being thawed in cold water, it will take two hours for every four pounds of poultry and the water should be changed every 30 minutes. Turkeys should be cooked immediately after being thawed and should be fully thawed.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says that as long as the turkey has a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit then foodborne illnesses like salmonella will be killed. However, turkeys with stuffing need extra cooking. It can take twice as long for turkeys with stuffing to reach the safe temperature. Dark meat might need to reach a higher temperature; Butterball suggests 175 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
The same rules apply for turkeys being deep fried or cooked by different methods. A food thermometer is essential for cooking no matter how it is being prepared.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds that for further protection against salmonella, consumers should consider buying eggs and egg products that are pasteurized and kept in the cold section of grocery stores.
Though it is against some peoples’ taste, the CDC also recommends cooking eggs fully, not runny, to avoid foodborne illnesses. Dishes that contain eggs such as deviled eggs and potato salad should be put in the refrigerator as soon as the possible after the meal has finished.
Consumers should also remember to always wash their hands after handling raw foods and cutting boards. While preparing dishes that require refrigerated products such as milk, be sure to put cold foods back where they belong after using them; leaving foods out even for short periods of time can increase the risk of disease.