CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION ISSUES COOKING SAFETY TIPS FOR THE THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY
Preventive Measures Can Keep Families and Guests Safe from Food-Related Illness and Cooking Fires
Preventive Measures Can Keep Families and Guests Safe from
Food-Related Illness and Cooking Fires
TRENTON, N.J. - As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) remind residents that simple measures can help prevent food-related illness and cooking fires during the holiday. Of particular concern are turkey fryers, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. Paired with the continued loss of natural gas service to some parts of the state as a result of Hurricane Sandy, this cooking method could be hazardous if not done properly.
"Thanksgiving is one of the most beloved holidays of the year, and while the day is meant to be joyous, it can also be a time for more fire-related accidents to occur as excitement leads to distraction," said DCA Commissioner Richard E. Constable III. "We urge those gathering to celebrate the holiday to be aware of safe cooking practices, especially as more families use new methods - such as frying - to prepare their turkeys."
Residents should also take measures to prevent food-related illness from spoiling the holiday. Cooking, transporting, 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, take precautions to reduce the risk of food-borne illness to you and your family," said Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd. "It is important to follow proper guidelines on preparing and serving food and to ensure that holiday dishes are cooked at the correct temperature and leftovers are always thoroughly reheated. The Department of Health has resources on its website to assist you in preparing meals safely."
The DCA and its Division of Fire Safety advise people who use self-contained fryers to follow these precautions on Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday cooking season:
To safely defrost a turkey, place it in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never defrost turkey at room temperature. If you thaw a 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, this contaminated food should be discarded. If drippings spill onto refrigerator shelves, clean thoroughly with soap and water. Turkey in a leak-proof package may be defrosted in cold water. It is important to submerge the whole bird or cut-up parts in cold water, then change the water every 30 minutes. If using a microwave, turkey must be cooked immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.
Residents are advised to use established guidelines to ensure that holiday dishes are cooked to the correct temperature and leftovers are always thoroughly reheated. For example, when cooking turkey, follow the directions on the package to determine length of cooking time with respect to how many pounds the turkey weighs. It is important to use a food thermometer to make sure the meat is cooked properly. Food thermometers usually cost less than $10 and can be bought at supermarkets and convenience stores. The internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast or thigh should be at least 165° F (74 C).
Stuffing should be separated and cooked in another oven dish or on the stove top to avoid cross-contamination. If you prefer to stuff your turkey, ensure that the stuffing is packed loosely just prior to roasting. Then remove all stuffing immediately after cooking. Cooked food should never be left out longer than 2 hours after it has been cooked.
Many residents are still recovering from the severe effects from Hurricane Sandy and may not be able to enjoy the holidays in their homes due to damage or continuing power outages. Family and friends who are planning to prepare food and transport it to residents should be aware of additional food safety precautions. For example, if you are preparing meal items and transporting them elsewhere, ensure that you keep hot foods hot (at or above 140°F (60 C) and cold foods cold (at or below 40°F (4 C). Transport hot food in insulated containers with hot packs or wrapped in foil and heavy towels. Use ice packs to transport cold food in a cooler.
The Department of Health offers the following additional tips to avoid food-related illness:
For additional guidance, DOH'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.
For more information about the Division of Fire Safety, log on to www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dfs/ on the DCA website, or call (609) 633-6106. For more detailed information on holiday cooking safety hints, visit www.holidaysafety.org on the web.