Uncooked turkey naturally contains Salmonella bacteria. Without properly preparing turkey this Thanksgiving, individuals may experience flu-like symptoms.
Christina Swallows works at the UT Overton County Extension office.
Swallows said people should take extra care when preparing a frozen or fresh turkey.
“Salmonella is inside the bird. It is in live birds and so, therefore, it is in the meat,” Swallows said. “And you want to make sure you wash your hands thoroughly while handling the turkey regardless of what state it is in. Also, [wash] any utensils and countertops that it might come in contact with.”
Swallows said individuals must cook the turkey completely before eating it.
“Whether it be a whole turkey or a breast, even if it is ground poultry or turkey burgers, casseroles, sausage. Anything from your poultry products,” Swallows said. “They need to all come up with a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill these germs. And that includes your leftovers as well.”
Leftovers must reach the 165 degrees Fahrenheit mark to kill the Salmonella. Swallows said microwaves have hotspots, so leftovers should be moved or stirred periodically.
Swallows said a 4 to12-pound turkey takes approximately 1 to 3 days to thaw in the refrigerator.
If someone runs out of time to properly defrost the turkey meat, swallows said they can place the turkey in a large pot or pan and cover it in cold water. Swallow said she advises people to change the water every 30 minutes.
“You know the water warms up so you want to keep that Turkey cold on the outside. What happens is on the outside your turkey may be thawing but the inside is still frozen,” Swallows said. “And the inconsistency of the temperature throughout allows bacteria to start growing.”
Swallows said from the time the turkey comes out of the oven to when it is placed in the refrigerator should be no longer than 2 hours.
“A lot of people have a lot of guests that drop in and drop out all throughout the day,” Swallows said. “Which makes it really hard to keep your food hot that should stay hot. And as a result, we can have symptoms of flu but it may actually be a foodborne illness.”
Swallows said those with already altered immune systems have a higher chance of catching a food-borne illness.