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Dear LA: Don't Poison Yourself Or Your Family This Thanksgiving

Keep your turkey safe this Thanksgiving
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Thanksgiving is a time to be with family and friends, to share a meal and break bread with those we love most. What we want to avoid, then, is accidentally poisoning the food that will then be consumed by said family and friends (whom we love most). And unfortunately, this year, that possibility is -- all puns aside -- on the table.

That's because 164 people have been infected with Salmonella contracted from raw turkey products, as of November 5. The infections are drug-resistant, have appeared in 35 states, and have resulted in 63 hospitalizations and one death. Of those infected, 13 were in California, including the one fatality.

So far, officials have not identified all sources of the bacteria, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noting that the strain is "present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry." The only confirmed source at this time is Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales, which recalled approximately 91,388 pounds of ground turkey as of November 15.

With that said, here is the LAist guide to not poisoning yourself or your family this holiday season.

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Rocky the dog shows off Rocky the structure of a turkey wing. (Photo by Ellie Attebery/Flickr Creative Commons)

Thawing Safety

Via the United States Department of Agriculture:

  • Only thaw turkey in the fridge, in cold water or in the microwave
  • Don't leave a frozen turkey out on the counter (or the patio, or the living room coffee table, or on top of the microwave, or anywhere) for more than two hours

Thawing in the fridge

  • Allow 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds to thaw
  • The bird can stay in the fridge for 1-2 days post-thaw

Thawing in cold water

  • Submerge the bird in cold water, still wrapped
  • Change the water out every 30 minutes
  • Allow 30 minutes for each pound to thaw
  • Cook the turkey immediately once it's thawed

Thawing in the microwave

  • The USDA's best advice here is to see your microwave manufacturer's instructions.
  • Cook the bird immediately after thawing
  • (Maybe don't thaw it this way if you can help it)

Cooking Safety

  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees
  • Cook your bird at 350 degrees (turn the oven temp down once you put the bird in)
  • Cook time is approximately 13 minutes for every pound
  • Turkey is done when it registers 165 degrees in the breast, the outer thigh and the inner thigh (the thickest part)
  • The USDA recommends cooking stuffing separately. If you must cook it in the bird, though, make sure that it also registers 165 degrees when done; if it doesn't, it could contaminate the meat.
  • Don't wash raw poultry; doing so just spreads bacteria around the kitchen.
  • Wash your hands and surfaces that touch raw poultry often.

Thinking About Using Beef Instead?

Be careful! Nearly 100,000 pounds of beef were recalled as of November 17, thanks to possibly being infected with E. coli. The recall, from Utah-based Swift Beef Co., affects five states -- including California.

A Caesar salad at The 8th Annual New York Culinary Experience on April 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for the New York Culinary Experience) (Neilson Barnard/)
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Oh, You Thought Salad Might Be Safe...

YOU THOUGHT WRONG. The CDC announced on Tuesday that any and all romaine lettuce should be thrown away, as it may have been infected with E.coli. No romaine lettuce should be consumed by anyone in the United States. Literally do not eat any romaine lettuce, at all.

And Finally...

If you're watching television while you prepare your meal, don't get so distracted that you forget to keep an eye on your bird, handle it properly and keep any surfaces that come in contact with the raw meat clean. This holds particularly true for those of you who will be partaking in the 24-hour Pee-wee's Playhouse marathon that will be showing on IFC starting at 6:00 a.m. Pee-wee is all-consuming.


Nov. 20, 12:18 p.m.: This article was updated with a notice about E. coli contamination of romaine lettuce.

This article was originally published at 8:15 a.m. on Nov. 20, 2018.

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