“It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought, it figures.”
The nation’s turkey farmers would prefer not to think about Alanis Morissette’s late-90s anthem to irony. However, as a salmonella outbreak linked to turkey takes hold less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, the turkeys aren’t the only ones getting nervous.
The outbreak has already killed one victim and, as of this writing, has sickened 164 people across 35 states. And, unlike many food-borne illnesses, this one is proving to be incredibly difficult to track back to its point of origin. The sickened include those who have consumed whole turkeys, ground turkey, turkey patties, and raw turkey contained in some pet foods. No single source for the outbreak has been identified and new cases are emerging every week.
A turkey recall has not been issued to this point and, given the trouble in identifying a point of origin in a food that is so widely consumed, one may never come along. And, the CDC has not yet taken the step of warning consumers against eating turkey either and does not appear to be on track to do so. Instead, the agency is recommending that people continue to do what they’ve always been encouraged to do when it comes to meat: cook it to a proper temperature before eating it.
While salmonella sickens over a million people every year, most of those cases come from contamination that takes place after a prepared food has been packaged for sale. The bacteria lives on the food and is never subjected to the kinds of temperatures that can kill it prior to consumption. Raw meat, however, is different. The fact that we have to cook it before eating it means that we’re the ones who decontaminate it in our own kitchens. For turkey, the magic number is 165 degrees. Anything less and you risk not killing the bacteria that may have made it onto your food and onto your family’s table.
Use caution and clean cooking practices when preparing any meal for you or your loved ones. Learn about and avoid actions that could lead to cross-contamination and understand the importance of proper cooking temperatures when it comes to meats. Thanksgiving is a time of celebration – let’s keep it that way this year by breaking out the meat thermometers rather than relying on tried and true family recipes and cooking times.