National Consumers League


NCL Food Issues

Turkey day safety tips

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Thanksgiving food safety tipsThanksgiving is fast approaching and whatever your family’s traditions, they are sure to involve large quantities of food.  With all that food comes major food safety risks.  Here are a few tips to make sure your family has a safe Thanksgiving.

Turkey tips

Defrost: Don’t leave your bird out overnight!  Plan to defrost in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of bird.  If you don’t have time for that, defrost your bird in a cold water bath changing the water every 30 minutes.  This method should take about 30 minutes per pound to defrost. 

Preparation: Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t wash the bird before cooking it.  Doing so increases the risk of germs spreading to other foods, utensils, and surfaces.  If you plan on stuffing the turkey, don’t do so until right before cooking as harmful bacteria can begin to grow in stuffing left sitting inside the turkey for long periods.  

Cooking: Turkeys, especially large ones, can take a long time to cook so make sure you allow plenty of time for your bird to be completely cooked.  The internal temperature should be 165⁰F.  Check the temperature of the bird in multiple locations to be sure the turkey is completely cooked through. If you have stuffed your bird, check the stuffing to make sure it has reached 165⁰F as well. Even if your turkey comes with a pop up thermometer, double check the temperature with a meat thermometer.


Put all leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of eating.  For most efficient cooling, store large amounts of leftovers in several smaller containers.  Leftovers should be stored at 40⁰F or frozen.  Make sure containers are tightly sealed and keep refrigerated for no more than 3-4 days. If you plan on keeping the leftovers for a longer period of time, freeze the food.

Stay active

The holidays can be a difficult time to maintain a healthy diet.  Studies have shown that most people gain about one pound over the holiday season. That doesn’t mean you have to deny yourself some of the best food you’ll have all year, instead make sure you stay active and eat everything in moderation.  During the holiday season make sure you engage in some winter activities such as ice skating, skiing, sledding or even taking a brisk walk can help you stay active throughout the holidays. 

More questions?

For Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season this year The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is offering a free app called “Ask Karen” that provides answers in both English and Spanish for many food safety question you might have.  The USDA will also have its bilingual Meat and Poultry Hotline open on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET. 

From everyone here at NCL, we hope you have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!