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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
|Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.|
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With the holiday season quickly approaching, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services reminds residents that simple preventive measures can keep families and guests safe from food-related illness.
Cooking, serving and storing food at safe temperatures and using pasteurized products are important ways to avoid illness from bacteria such as e. coli or Salmonella, two of the more common but serious food-related illnesses.
“When you are entertaining and cooking your favorite holiday foods, it is important to take precautions to reduce the risk of food-borne illness to you and your family,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd. “It is important to follow proper guidelines on preparing and serving food and ensure that holiday dishes are cooked at the correct temperature and leftovers are always thoroughly reheated. The Department has resources on its website to assist you in preparing meals safely.”
Annually, 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from food-related illness, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For example, when cooking turkey, everyone should use a food thermometer to make sure the meat is cooked properly. Food thermometers usually cost less than $10 and are widely available at supermarkets and convenience stores. The temperature of the thickest part of the breast or thigh should be at least 165° F (74 C).
Stuffing should also be cooked separately in its own oven dish or on the stove top to avoid cross-contamination. If you choose to stuff your turkey, make sure that the stuffing is packed loosely just prior to roasting. Then remove all stuffing immediately after cooking.
There are three ways to defrost turkey - in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never defrost turkey at room temperature. If you decide to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator, place it in a large cooking dish on the bottom shelf to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other foods. If juices leak onto food that will not be cooked, dispose of the food. If drippings spill onto refrigerator shelves, clean with soap and water. Turkey in a leak-proof package may be defrosted in cold water. Food preparers need to submerge the whole bird or cut-up parts in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. If using the microwave, the turkey must be cooked immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.
Besides cooking turkey properly, the DHSS offers the following tips to avoid food-related illness:
For additional guidance, the Department’s Food and Drug Safety Program offers “Holiday Food Safety Tips,” a fact sheet packed with information for consumers about food temperatures, what to do with leftovers and much more. The fact sheet is available on the Program’s website at: http://nj.gov/health/foodanddrugsafety/documents/holiday_food_safety_factsheet.pdf. There is also a number to call with any questions at (609)826-4935.
Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360