Thanksgiving: Don’t wash the turkey, food safety experts say
U.S. health officials give Americans tips on how to have a healthy holiday
November 20, 2021 3:15pm
Updated: November 25, 2021 3:11pm
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that vaccinated people can gather for Thanksgiving, but warns against washing the turkey for those preparing this classic holiday dish.
Federal food safety experts have reiterated the warning for years since 2005. Why? Washing raw meat increases the risk of cross-contamination and can lead to illnesses such as salmonella and campylobacter, experts say.
The bacteria can be killed by cooking the turkey. To ensure that a turkey is sufficiently cooked, use a thermometer to check that the deepest and thickest parts of the meat have reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Despite annual reminders from the CDC and USDA, 78 percent of people reported washing or rinsing the turkey before cooking, according to a 2020 survey.
"Old recipes and family cooking traditions may keep this practice going, but they can make you and your family sick," the CDC said. "Poultry juices can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops."
The CDC also offers some tips for handling turkey properly and reducing the risks: First, anyone who cooks should wash their hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling a raw turkey.
Second, cooks should use separate cutting boards for raw turkey and other foods.
Third, cooked food or fresh produce should be placed on a cutting board or any other surface on the raw turkey has been placed.
Finally, cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and plates used for the turkey should be washed with hot, soapy water after preparing the turkey and before preparing the next meal.
For those who still choose to wash the turkey, the CDC advises cleaning and disinfecting the sink afterward.
Cleaning and disinfecting is a two-step process: First, scrub surfaces, including the sink, cutting boards, and countertops, with soap and hot water. Second, disinfect with a solution for this purpose to remove any residual germs that cannot be seen. The homemade solution consists of one tablespoon of unscented liquid bleach dissolved in one gallon of water.
The sink or dishwasher should not be wiped dry, but rather left to air dry, according to the USDA.