Give thanks, eat up, and be safe
The last thing anybody wants is to be sick during the holidays. Serving and keeping food safely helps keep everybody healthy.November 16, 2018
Thanksgiving is a holiday filled with family, friends, football and feasting. Unfortunately, it is also a day of hidden hazards.
The staff at the Tennessee Poison Center (TPC), newly housed in the Crystal Terrace building on West End, anticipates receiving about 125-145 poison exposure calls and five to 10 information calls on Thanksgiving this year.
Unfortunately, even turkey, the symbol of Thanksgiving, can be the source of salmonella and listeria food poisoning when not properly thawed, cooked and stored.
Nena Bowman, managing director at the Tennessee Poison Center, said most calls will likely concern food handling safety and accidental poisoning involving young children. Other topics typically result in calls about burns, medication errors, alcohol ingestions and overdoses.
Unfortunately, even turkey, the symbol of Thanksgiving, can be the source of salmonella and listeria food poisoning when not properly thawed, cooked and stored, she said.
Salmonella and listeria are bacteria that can grow on food when it is not prepared appropriately or out of refrigeration for too long. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea hours after spoiled or raw food has been ingested. If you think you may have symptoms of food poisoning, call the TPC to talk with a poison specialist for recommendations.
TPC advises those preparing food to frequently wash their hands, kitchen surfaces, utensils and cutting boards, especially after handling uncooked food and before touching other food. Washing produce, meat or poultry, but not eggs, is important to avoid spreading harmful bacteria.
Keep meat, turkey, seafood and eggs away from all other foods at the store, in the refrigerator, and while cooking the meal, Bowman said.
When cooking, use a food thermometer to check if meat is fully cooked and heated to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria and cook the turkey until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
The bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest in the “danger zone,” between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold and refrigerate leftovers promptly.
The safest way to cook stuffing is outside the turkey in a casserole dish. Stuffing cooked inside the turkey should be inserted right before cooking and cooked until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
The bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest in the “danger zone,” between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold, refrigerate leftovers promptly — within two hours at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to help reduce the risk of bacterial growth — and prevent cross contamination by completely and securely covering food in the refrigerator. Consume or freeze leftovers within three to four days.
On Thanksgiving Day, the number of child-related accidents, particularly poisonings, rise. More than 70 percent of TPC’s Thanksgiving Day poison exposure calls will involve children under 6 years old who have gotten access to common household products.
Generally, these items include: cleaning substances, cosmetics, deodorizers, topical preparations and household plants. While most products pose little risk of harm in just a taste or a sip, others can be highly toxic in less than one mouthful.
Parents should lock up harmful products and make sure children are supervised during the festivities.
Potential alcohol intoxication of adult and children, burns from frying turkeys, and suicide attempts by overdosing on medication are also common calls the TPC receive during the holiday season.
“Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy family, food, and to be thankful. When poisonings occur, the Tennessee Poison Center is here for you to answer any question, any time of day,” Bowman said. “It’s better to call us and be safe than to worry the rest of the holiday.”
The TPC will continue to assist the citizens of Tennessee with their poisoning questions and emergencies and will be ready Thanksgiving Day to answer all calls.
The Tennessee Poison Center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and can be contacted through their helpline at 1-800-222-1222.