Holiday food safety

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- With the approaching holidays drawing more people to their stovetops in efforts to prepare different culinary creations, proper kitchen caution is imperative.

Specifically, with Thanksgiving approaching, correct turkey preparation is essential.

"Millions of turkeys will be served during the holiday season," said Master Sgt. Xavier Lawson, 366th Fighter Wing safety office noncommissioned officer in charge of ground safety. "The United States Department of Agriculture inspects about 95 percent of turkeys for wholesomeness, but no tests for bacterial contamination are done. Since all raw foods of animal origin carry bacteria, you can assume your holiday bird carries bacteria such as Salmonella or Campylobacter that may cause food-borne illness. A few simple precautions can spare you from the chills, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps associated with food poisoning."

Safe turkey preparation doesn't merely begin when the bird hits family kitchen countertops but rather while still in the supermarket.

"Turkeys can be purchased fresh or frozen," said Lawson. "There is no significant quality difference between fresh and frozen birds, but a fresh turkey should be prepared within one or two days of being purchased. A frozen turkey should be completely frozen when you buy it and can be kept for up to a year in the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit without significant loss of quality. Keep a fresh turkey under refrigeration until prepared. A frozen turkey should be kept frozen. Do not buy a turkey that is displayed without refrigeration or stacked above the top of the refrigerator case."

Safety in the kitchen extends to the proper way to handle food as well.

The website, recommends the following:

· Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.

· Don't cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash cutting board, utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water.

· Cutting boards, utensils and countertops can be sanitized by using a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water.

· Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.

All food related safety precautions are intended to prevent possible illness, thus preventing possible ruined holidays.

"For a healthy adult, a bout with food-borne illness can seem like little more than a case of the flu," said Lawson. "It can be very serious for the very young, the very old, or those with compromised immune systems."