CDC Warns What Not to Do Before Cooking Your Turkey

For your Thanksgiving celebrations, the turkey is often the centerpiece of the meal, so it's important to handle it with care, keeping your family's health as a priority.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's recommended not to wash or rinse the turkey before cooking, as this practice can help maintain safety standards in food preparation.

"Washing raw turkey can spread germs to other food. Federal agencies have recommended not washing turkey or chicken since 2005," the CDC reports on its website. "But a 2020 survey found that 78% of participants reported washing or rinsing turkey before cooking."

The health and service organization emphasizes to the public that traditional family recipes might encourage continuing certain practices, but these could pose health risks to you and your family.

The underlying concern is that juices from raw turkey can disperse throughout the kitchen, potentially contaminating other foods, as well as kitchen tools and surfaces.

"Raw turkey can contain Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter and other germs," the CDC warns in its food safety for special events and holidays post, which was last edited on Oct. 20. "Whether you’re cooking a whole bird or a part of it, such as the breast, you should take special care to prevent food poisoning."

The CDC recommends washing your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling poultry.

Additionally, it's essential to use a distinct cutting board for the turkey and thoroughly wash any dishes or utensils that come into contact with it.

It's important not to thaw a turkey by leaving it out on the counter, as it can become unsafe to eat when it reaches certain temperatures. Bacteria growth can occur in the "danger zone" between 40°F and 140°F, making the turkey potentially hazardous.

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