Nutrition Action Healthletter
October 1999 — U.S. Edition


Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal.





Fruits and Vegetables.

Juice and Cider.

Prepared Foods and Salads.

Hot Dogs and Deli Meats.

If You Get Sick.

When Traveling.

Meet the Bugs.

Food Safety Guide.
What to Do?

It’s the way we raise and slaughter chickens and turkeys that leads many birds to be contaminated.

   After they’re killed and their blood has been drained, they’re put in a communal bath—a perfect way to spread bacteria from one carcass to another. Then rubber “fingers” rub the skin to remove the feathers. That pushes bacteria into the pores. After the insides are removed, the carcasses are chilled, which closes the pores... and traps any bacteria.

   Of all the germs that inhabit the chicken coop, Campylobacter is king. It causes more cases of food poisoning than any other bug. The microorganism sickens an estimated two to four million people—and kills 120 to 360—in the U.S. each year.

   The worst part of a Campylobacter infection may not be the vomiting and diarrhea. In an estimated one in a thousand cases, it may also lead to Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a neurological disease that can cause (temporary or permanent) numbness, pain, progressive weakness, and paralysis.

What to Do.

* Use a minimum cooking temperature of 325°F and cook turkey or chicken until it reaches a temperature of 180°F (dark meat) or 170°F (white meat), measured by a meat thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the meat. Cook boneless turkey roast to 170°F to 175°F.

* Even if the bird comes with a pop-up thermometer, check the temperature with a meat thermometer.

* If you use a microwave to defrost frozen chicken or turkey, cook the bird as soon as it’s thawed.

* If you defrost a frozen turkey in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours for every five pounds. (That means a 20-pound frozen turkey for Thanksgiving has to start defrosting the previous Sunday.)

* If a frozen turkey is wrapped in leak-proof plastic, you can defrost it in cold water, but the water should be changed every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes of defrosting per pound.

* If you buy a hot, take-out turkey (or any other food), keep it at or above 140°F if you’ll be eating it within two hours. If you’ll be eating it more than two hours later—or if you buy a cold pre-cooked turkey—dismantle your feast and refrigerate it. Remove the stuffing and cut the turkey off the bone. Wings and legs can be left whole. When you’re ready to eat, reheat the meat and stuffing to 165°F and boil the gravy.


It’s safest to cook stuffing separately. If you do cook it in the bird:

* Stuff the bird loosely just before you put it in the oven (about ¾ cup of stuffing per pound of poultry).

* Use a meat thermometer to make sure that the center of the stuffing reaches 165°F.

* If the chicken or turkey is done before the stuffing is fully cooked, remove the stuffing and heat it on the stovetop to 165°F. Avoid pre-stuffed fresh chickens or turkeys.

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