Agriculture Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond today discussed important tips for preventing foodborne illness during the holidays with volunteers from the Capital Area Food Bank, the largest public nonprofit hunger and nutrition education resource in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Dr. Raymond was joined by noted Washington Chef Terrell Danley of Crème Café.
"I encourage all Americans to join me in making food safety the most important ingredient in the kitchen this Thanksgiving," said Dr. Raymond. "Foodborne illness is very serious but easily prevented if foods are handled, prepared and cooked properly."
Designed to help raise awareness of the dangers associated with foodborne illness, the event featured demonstrations of safe food handling, preparation and cooking techniques that can help reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
Using common food items typically associated with the Thanksgiving Day meal, Dr. Raymond and Chef Danley highlighted the four basic USDA food safety messages: Clean, Cook, Separate and Chill. The foodbank volunteers who will help deliver donated food received additional food safety materials for distribution to area families in need.
Dr. Raymond thanked the volunteers for their generosity in helping to deliver donated food and said that they need to be doubly aware of the food safety challenges they face. He also noted that volunteers delivering donated food must keep the food safety recommendations in mind not only when preparing their own Thanksgiving meal, but also when handling and delivering perishable foods.
It is crucial to understand that perishable foods can become unsafe when they are undercooked or mishandled because harmful bacteria can multiply under certain conditions. Dr. Raymond noted that when preparing meals, surfaces and hands must be clean and raw meat and poultry must be kept separate from other foods. When cooking meals, a food thermometer must be used to determine whether the food is safely cooked. When foods are being transported, or if meals will be left out on the table for more than two hours, they must be kept cold or hot - the rule of thumb is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
The four basic food safety messages from USDA are:
-Clean - Wash hands and surfaces often
-Separate - Don't cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat and poultry apart from cooked foods.
-Cook - Cook to safe temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry are safely cooked
-Chill - Refrigerate or freeze promptly
USDA also is providing recommendations on safely thawing turkey.
-Before preparing your meal, you must of course shop for a turkey. If you shop ahead, then you'll probably want to purchase a frozen turkey. If you're purchasing a fresh turkey, then it may be kept one to two days in the refrigerator prior to cooking.
-Frozen turkeys should be thawed prior to cooking. Turkeys, along with all frozen meat and poultry products, must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. Any harmful bacteria that may have been present prior to freezing can begin to grow again unless safe thawing methods are used.
-There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey or other food: in the refrigerator at 40 ºF or below; in cold water; and in the microwave. When thawing in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours of thawing time for every five pounds of turkey. When thawing in cold water, allow 30 minutes per pound and change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. When thawing in the microwave, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Plan to cook the turkey immediately after thawing because some areas of the turkey may become warm and begin to cook during microwave thawing.
USDA also encourages consumers to access its food safety information through the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline, which is staffed Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Eastern Time, year-round, and will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Thanksgiving Day. Information is available in English and Spanish. An extensive selection of recorded food safety messages is also available 24 hours a day. The toll-free phone number for the Hotline is 1-888-MPHotline or 1-888-674-6854. The toll-free number for the hearing impaired (TTY) is 1-800-256-7072. E-mail inquiries may be directed to mailto:MPHotline.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consumers can also obtain food safety information 24 hours a day though the FSIS virtual representative, "Ask Karen," at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Food_Safety_Education/Ask_Karen/. Additional information can also be accessed on the FSIS Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/ .