Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

October 04, 2005 10:16 ET

Food Safety Facts

Turkey and Salmonella Attention: Food/Beverage Editor, Health/Medical Editor, Lifestyle Editor, Media Editor, News Editor OTTAWA / ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 4, 2005) -
Foodborne illness, also known as "food poisoning" may happen because of using improper techniques when buying, preparing and cooking a turkey. Follow these food safety tips to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

It's always important to keep foods out of the danger zone which is between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F). To do this, just keep hot foods hot, at least 60°C (140°F) and keep cold foods cold at 4°C (40°F) or lower.

Buying a turkey

* Check the "best before" date on fresh turkeys because it indicates the freshness of the turkey.
* Frozen, well wrapped turkeys can be kept in the freezer for up to one year
* If buying a frozen turkey, allow four to six days for thawing in the refrigerator (depending on the size).
* If buying fresh turkey, purchase it no more than two days before cooking. It should be cold when bought then immediately refrigerated at home at a temperature of 4°C (40°F) or lower.
* At the grocery store, the turkey should be the last item selected before proceeding to the checkout.
* Do not let the turkey come into contact with other items in the grocery cart. Put the turkey in a separate plastic bag to avoid cross-contaminating other foods.

Thawing the turkey

* Never thaw turkey on the kitchen counter.
* Place the turkey in the refrigerator in a large container or on a platter big enough to prevent leaking juices from contaminating other foods in the refrigerator. Place on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
* Start thawing the frozen turkey in the refrigerator several days before roasting. Allow 24 hours of defrosting time for each 2.5 kg (5 pounds) of turkey (i.e., 5 hours/lb. or 10 hours/kg).
* Turkey can be defrosted under cold running water, but it should be wrapped in leak proof plastic to help prevent cross-contamination.
* If thawing turkey in the microwave, cook the turkey immediately after thawing is complete.

Preparing the turkey

* Thoroughly clean your hands, the counter and all utensils before and after preparing the turkey.
* Immediately after preparing the turkey, wash and sanitize the sink, counter tops, utensils and anything else that came in contact with the turkey with a mild bleach solution (5 ml /1 tsp. bleach per 750 ml/3 cups water). Rinse with clean water.
* Do not let any juices from the turkey come in contact with other food or food preparation equipment.
* For maximum safety, cook the stuffing outside the bird.

Cooking the turkey

* Never slow-cook turkey. Set the oven no lower than 177° C (350°F) and use a food thermometer to check that the turkey reaches a minimum internal temperature of 85°C (185°F).
* The stuffing should reach a minimum internal temperature of 74°C (165°F).
* For whole turkey: near the end of the cooking time, remove meat from heat and insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast or thigh meat, so the thermometer does not touch any bone. Follow the manufacturer's directions on the proper use of your specific food thermometer. If the proper temperature has been achieved, the food is safe to eat. If the food has not reached the proper temperature, continue cooking. Always wash the food thermometer and other utensils you used on raw or partially cooked foods before using them to check foods again.
* If you choose to serve a pre-cooked, stuffed turkey which is purchased hot, be sure to keep it in the oven to keep the turkey at least 60°C (140°F) or above and eat it within two hours of purchase. If you will be eating this turkey more than two hours after buying it, the stuffing should be removed and both it and the bird should be refrigerated to 4°C (40°F) or lower as soon as possible after purchase.

Serving the turkey

* Serve turkey and stuffing immediately. Keep the rest of the turkey and stuffing hot at a minimum 60°C (140°F) in the oven . Replace empty platters with hot food from the oven.
Turkey leftovers
* Refrigerate leftovers promptly in uncovered, shallow containers so they cool quickly. Once food is cooled, cover.
* Remove meat from the bone. Store meat, stuffing and gravy separately in shallow containers to cool them quickly.
* Reheat leftovers to 74°C (165°F).
* Bring gravy to a full, rolling boil and stir during the reheating process.
* Use leftovers within two to three days.

Salmonella Food Safety Facts: Preventing foodborne illness

What is foodborne illness?

Food contaminated by bacteria, viruses and parasites can make you sick. Many people have had foodborne illness and not even known it. It's sometimes called food poisoning, and it can feel like the flu. Symptoms may include the following:
* stomach cramps
* nausea
* vomiting
* diarrhea
* fever

Symptoms can start soon after eating contaminated food, but they can hit up to a month or more later. For some people, especially young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, foodborne illness can be very dangerous.

Every year in Canada about 10,000 cases of foodborne illnesses are reported, but food safety experts believe that an estimated two million people become ill without knowing or reporting it. Each year, about 30 cases are fatal.

Most cases of foodborne illness can be prevented by using safe food handling practices and using a food thermometer to check that your food is cooked to a safe internal temperature!

What are Salmonella and salmonellosis?

Salmonella bacteria are found naturally in the intestines of animals, especially poultry and swine. The bacteria can also be found in the environment. People who eat food contaminated by Salmonella can become ill with salmonellosis.

What are the symptoms of salmonellosis infection?

Like other foodborne illnesses, the symptoms of salmonellosis can feel like the flu. Symptoms usually appear 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food and usually lasts up to seven days. Or, you may experience chronic symptoms, such as reactive arthritis three to four weeks later. Others infected with the bacteria may not get sick or show symptoms, but they can carry the bacteria, and spread the infection to others.

How does the bacteria spread?

Salmonellosis can be spread from person-to-person. Both animals and people infected with the bacteria can be carriers. Therefore, proper hygiene, safe food handling and preparation practices are key to preventing foodborne illness. If you think you are infected with Salmonella or any other gastrointestinal illness, do not prepare food for other people unless you wear disposable gloves and follow safe food handling procedures. It's a good idea to keep pets away from food storage and preparation areas. After handling pet treats, pet food and pet toys or after playing with, or cleaning up after your pet, it is essential to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.

Where has Salmonella been found?

Food can become contaminated with Salmonella during the slaughter and processing of an animal, when food is handled by a person infected with Salmonella or from cross-contamination because of unsanitary food handling practices. The following listed below have been responsible for foodborne illnesses:
* raw and undercooked meat (especially poultry)
* raw fruits and vegetables (especially sprouts and cantaloupes) and their juices, e.g. apple or orange juice
* raw or undercooked eggs
* unpasteurized dairy products, like raw milk and raw milk cheeses
* pet treats

Will cooking destroy the bacteria?

Like many other harmful bacteria that could be in our food, Salmonella are destroyed when food is cooked to a safe internal temperature. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of your food. See the chart below.

Foodsafe tip: Cooking a chicken? A turkey? For maximum safety, food safety experts recommend cooking the stuffing in a separate dish. Why? It takes longer for the stuffing and the meat to reach a safe internal temperature, so why not un-stuff and save time? Stuffing and meat must each reach separate safe internal temperatures (see the chart below).

Is it safe to eat raw or lightly cooked eggs?

Foods made from raw or lightly cooked eggs can be harmful, particularly for young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. When serving eggs to people in these high risk groups, cook them thoroughly. See table.

Foodsafe tip: Try using pasteurized egg products when preparing food that traditionally contain raw eggs, such as eggnog, mayonnaise, salad dressing, ice cream and mousses. Pasteurization destroys harmful bacteria.

Defeating Salmonella: A 4-Point Plan

1. Get off to a CLEAN start!

* Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Do you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling food? Wash again when you switch from one food to another.
* Are your countertops and utensils clean and sanitized? Sanitizing reduces bacteria and can prevent foodborne illness.

* Combine 5 mL (1 tsp) of bleach with 750 mL (3 cups) of water in a labelled spray bottle.
* After cleaning, spray sanitizer on the surface/utensil and let stand briefly.
* Rinse with lots of clean water, and air dry (or use clean towels).

Foodsafe tip: Because raw fruits and vegetables can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites, wash them thoroughly with clean, safe running water before you prepare and eat them. Use a brush to scrub produce with firm or rough surfaces, such as oranges, cantaloupes, potatoes and carrots.

2. CHILL your food and stop bacteria cold!

* Bacteria can grow in the danger zone between 4°C and 60°C (40°F to 140°F). Keep cold food cold at or below 4°C (40°F).
* Refrigeration at or below 4°C (40°F) slows down most bacterial growth. Freezing at or below -18°C (0°F) can stop it completely. (But remember: chilling won't kill bacteria. Only proper cooking will do that!)

Foodsafe tip: Keep your eggs cold! Store them in their original carton (so you can easily check the "best before" date) and place them in the coldest section of the fridge, usually near the back. Only buy clean and uncracked eggs.

3. SEPARATE! Don't cross-contaminate!
* Bacteria can be carried in raw meat juices. Place raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Use containers that are large enough to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other food or touching other food. Platters, utensils and cutting boards used for raw meat can carry bacteria, too. Use clean ones for cooked food!
* Keep raw food away from other food while shopping, storing and preparing foods.

Foodsafe tip: Platters, utensils and cutting boards used for raw meat can carry bacteria, too. Use clean ones for cooked and other ready-to-eat food!

4. COOK safely!

* Have you cooked your food to a safe internal temperature? Use a digital food thermometer to check the temperature of your food. See table.
* Bacteria can grow quickly in the danger zone between 4°C and 60°C (40°F to 140°F), so keep hot foods at or above 60°C (140°F).

Foodsafe tip: The only way to be sure that your food is cooked properly is to use a food thermometer to check.

When is my food ready to eat?

Fully cooked and ready-to-eat meats (e.g. ham, roast)
* You can eat it cold or you can heat it.

Beef and veal steaks and roasts
* 63°C (145°F) medium-rare
* 71°C (160°F) medium
* 77°C (170°F) well done

Pork chops, ribs, roasts; ground beef, ground pork and ground veal, including sausages made with ground beef/pork/veal
* 71°C (160°F)

Stuffing and casseroles, hot dogs, leftovers, egg dishes;
ground chicken and ground turkey, including sausages made with ground chicken/turkey
* 74°C (165°F)

Chicken and turkey breasts, legs, thighs and wings chicken and turkey, whole bird
* 85°C (185°F)

Safeguarding Canada's Food Supply

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is the Government of Canada's key science-based regulator for food safety,* animal health and plant protection. At the CFIA, the safety of Canada's food supply is central to everything we do.
*in partnership with Health Canada
/For further information: For more information on food safety, visit the CFIA Web site at

You can also find food safety information on the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education Web site at IN: FOOD, HEALTH

Contact Information

  • Media Relations, Canadian Food Inspection Agency
    Primary Phone: 613-228-6682