Washing your Thanksgiving turkey could spread germs

Washing your Thanksgiving turkey could spread germs

Did you know that washing your turkey this Thanksgiving can actually spread germs?

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends not washing your turkey this holiday because germs that can make you sick are common in the guts of poultry, according to The Associated Press. They are also legally allowed to be on your raw chicken and turkey so it’s assumed that nobody will eat raw poultry and that bacteria will be killed off during the cooking process.

“If your mother did it and your grandmother did it, and suddenly the (government) says not to wash your turkey, you may take some time to adjust,” said Drusilla Banks, who teaches food sanitation for the University of Illinois Extension, according to the AP.

Not washing raw poultry from the USDA is a newer concept and it’s a tad hard to adjust to when you think washing helps clean things, Banks said, according to the AP.

“Federal agencies have recommended not washing turkey or chicken since 2005. But a 2020 survey found that 78% of participants reported washing or rinsing turkey before cooking. Old recipes and family cooking traditions may tempt you to keep this practice going, but it can make you and your family sick. Poultry juice can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If you wash raw turkey, immediately clean and thoroughly sanitize the sink and surrounding area,” the CDC recommends.

Mindy Brashears, a food safety official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture says, according to the AP, that there are two common causes of food poisoning which are salmonella and campylobacter which are both possibly on the turkey.

“Unsafe handling and undercooking your turkey can cause foodborne illness,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Emilio Esteban. “To ensure your Thanksgiving meal is wholesome and memorable without the illness, follow the four steps to food safety: clean, separate, cook and chill, and avoid risky food handling habits that go against USDA guidelines.”

Tips for handling your turkey correctly to prevent germs from spreading, according to the CDC:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling the turkey
  • Use a separate cutting board for your turkey from produce, bread and other items
  • Do not put cooked turkey or other foods on a surface that had raw turkey
  • Wash cutting boards, utensils and so forth with hot soapy water after preparing raw turkey

If you have a food safety question, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 or chat with a food safety specialist live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST Monday through Friday. The hotline will be available for questions on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST.

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