Some Thanksgiving Tips to Avoid Food-borne Illness During the Holidays:
With all the wonderful food on Thanksgiving, it would be a shame to have a food-borne illness ruin the feast. Here are some quick tips that will help to reduce your family's risk of getting sick over the holiday. Of course the basic premise is to keep cooking surfaces as clean a possible and to avoid cross-contamination of uncooked meat with cooked food. The easiest way to do this is to designate one cutting board and knife to be used only with raw meat and poultry.
It is also important to make sure that meat and poultry are cooked to the proper temperature to destroy disease-causing bacteria. This starts with properly defrosting the turkey. Most people may be surprised to know how long it takes to properly defrost a frozen turkey. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "When thawed correctly in the refrigerator or at a temperature of no more than 40 F, a 20-pound turkey needs two to three days to thaw completely. Thawing the turkey completely before cooking is important. Otherwise, the outside of the turkey will be done before the inside, and the inside will not be hot enough to destroy disease-causing bacteria." When the turkey is done, a food thermometer should read 180 F. When checking the temperature, be sure the thermometer is not touching a bone, which will give you an artificially elevated temperature. Although it is safest to cook stuffing outside the bird, if cooking stuffing inside the turkey be sure that the stuffing reaches a temperature of 165 F.
Lastly, any food that is being made in advance and refrigerated should be refrigerated immediately after cooking. Allowing the food to cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge, although a common practice, in fact, allows bacteria to grow. For a complete guide on safe holiday cooking tips visit the FDA's website. Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.
Letting the Little People Partake In the Feast:
This Thanksgiving keep in mind that your older infants may be able to take part in some of the food festivities. Gone are the days of food restrictions for infants over 4-6 months of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised its stance on delaying the introduction of eggs and other highly allergic foods beyond 4-6 months of age. All foods should still be introduced one at a time over the course of a few days to monitor for allergies. But it is no longer believed that delaying the introduction of eggs, nuts or fish will decrease the likelihood that a child will have an allergic reaction to that food. So this Thanksgiving your youngest family members may be able to partake in a mashed up Thanksgiving tasting if they have already pre-tried and have had no adverse reactions to any of the individual ingredients. Please see April's blog: No More Egg-less Meatballs for a full discussion on the new Infant Feeding Recommendations.