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Enjoy holiday food, but don´t forget food safety

K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansan...

The Thanksgiving menu - turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans - typically stays pretty much the same. Two food safety recommendations for cooking the meal changed last year, said Karen Blakeslee, Kansas State University Research and Extension food scientist.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service eliminated the recommendation for washing raw meat and poultry, including raw turkey, before placing it in the oven. It also adjusted the cooked temperature to 165 degrees F. for all poultry products, Blakeslee said.


The practice of rinsing the raw turkey in cool running water is no longer recommended, Blakeslee said. Eliminating this step reduces the risk of cross contamination from rinse water being splashed around the sink and on the adjoining counter. Heat during the roasting process will kill any bacteria, if present.

The cooked temperature recommendation - 165 degrees - standardizes the recommendations for cooking poultry. Previously, the USDA recommended different temperatures for poultry parts such as breasts, thighs, and wings.

The only sure way to tell if meat and poultry are cooked to recommended temperatures is by using a food thermometer, Blakeslee said. Information about choosing and using a meat thermometer is available on the K-State Research and Extension Web site.

Meat thermometers are available at hardware, kitchenware, discount and department stores and at many supermarkets.

One thing that hasn´t changed, Blakeslee said, is the relatively modest cost of the holiday meal. The American Farm Bureau Federation reported that, in 2006, the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people was $38.10. The menu included turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, peas, rolls with butter, cranberries, relish tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and coffee or milk as a beverage.

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