Calling all cooks: As Thanksgiving approaches, you are invited to test your knowledge of safe food handling with this quiz:
1. Which of the following should all Thanksgiving cooks assume as they begin dinner preparations?
a. All guests will arrive on time.
b. The raw turkey is contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria.
c. The mashed potatoes will be lumpy.
d. There will be no leftovers.
2. Turkeys should be refrigerated
a. While defrosting.
b. No later than two hours after serving.
c. All of the above.
3. To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, stuffing should be
a. Removed from the turkey cavity as soon as the turkey is fully cooked and out of the oven.
b. Smothered in gravy.
c. Made with oysters.
d. All of the above.
4. Kitchen work surfaces that contact raw foods should be
a. Washed with hot, soapy water, then disinfected with a bleach solution .
b. Wiped up with paper towel after the contact occurs.
c. Wiped up with the kitchen sponge.
5. As the refrigerator becomes packed with ingredients for the Thanksgiving feast, it is important to remember to
a. Separate raw turkey from ready-to-eat foods.
b. Keep the raw turkey on a lower shelf than the raw fruits and vegetables.
c. Keep the refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
d. All of the above.
#1 Correct answer: b. According to Professor David Weber of the University of North Carolina, cooks should assume that all raw fowl is infected with Salmonella bacteria and take steps to reduce exposure to these bacteria (see: Avoiding nasty germs and flaming turkeys on Thanksgiving).
#2 Correct answer: c. Turkeys should be defrosted in the refrigerator–and not at room temperature–to avoid bacteria on the turkey rapidly multiplying at room temperature. To defrost a turkey in the fridge, keep turkey in its original wrapper and place it on a tray to catch any juices that may leak. Place the turkey in the tray on a low shelf separated from ready-to-eat foods. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for one to two days (see: Minnesota Department of Health website).
#3 Correct answer: a. Stuffing is a “hospitable place” for bacteria to grow, so reduce your risk of foodborne illness by removing it from the turkey as soon as the bird is cooked (see: Avoiding nasty germs and flaming turkeys on Thanksgiving). Many “foodies” also suggest that stuffing not be cooked in the turkey because although the turkey may be thoroughly cooked to doneness at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the stuffing might not reach the same temperature until the turkey is overcooked. They prefer to make “dressing,” which is what you can name your delicious stuffing recipe if you cook it outside of the turkey on the stove top and heat it in the oven before serving it.
#4 Correct answer: a. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Water Quality and Health Council recommend disinfecting all kitchen surfaces that contact raw foods. The best way to do that is to first wash surfaces with hot, soapy water, rinse and then disinfect by applying a very dilute bleach solution of household laundry bleach (see Cleaning vs. Disinfecting: What’s the Difference?). Simply wiping up with a paper towel may help clean the surface but it does nothing to disinfect it if foodborne pathogens are around. Similarly, a kitchen sponge may help clean the surface but it cannot disinfect it. Kitchen sponges are notorious vehicles for spreading bacteria around the kitchen. The Water Quality & Health Council recommends microwaving kitchen sponges for two minutes on high power to disinfect them. They must be very wet, never dry!
#5 Correct answer: d. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns juices from raw poultry can spread bacteria inside your fridge, so separate raw poultry from ready-to-eat foods such as raw fruits and vegetables. Keep raw turkey on a lower shelf than your ready-to-eat foods to avoid stray juices dripping and contaminating them. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends maintaining the refrigerator temperature at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It is especially important to check refrigerator temperature when it is tightly packed.
Have a happy, and healthy Thanksgiving!
Linda Golodner is President Emeritus of the National Consumers League and Vice Chair of the Water Quality & Health Council.