The New Mexico Poison Center Warns of Thanksgiving Food Poisoning Dangers

During holiday feast, food often sits at room temperature longer than usual, providing opportunities for bacteria to grow.  Salmonella is a bacterium that causes food poisoning. Salmonella can remain alive after butchering and can grow at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  That means the bacteria may be active during thawing, storage or inadequate cooking.

"The symptoms of Salmonella resemble the flu and include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea," said Jess Bensons, Director of the New Mexico Poison Center.  "Often, illness doesn't develop until 8 to 72 hours after the contaminated food was eaten and the symptoms may last up to seven days. Many people who get Salmonella poisoning recover without treatment. However, Salmonella infections can be life threatening, especially for the very young, the elderly, and for persons with impaired immune systems."

Food Poisoning Prevention Tips:

--Thaw frozen unstuffed turkeys in the refrigerator for 1-5 days, depending on the size of the bird.  For faster thawing, turkeys can be put in watertight wrappers and submerged in cold water for four to 12 hours depending on the size of the bird.  Add ice regularly to keep the water cold.  Do not thaw the turkey on the kitchen counter.

--Hands, utensils, and work surfaces that touch raw poultry are likely to pick up bacteria.  To avoid spreading bacteria to other foods, wash hands thoroughly before and after dressing the turkey.  All work surfaces and utensils should be washed promptly after use.

--It is important to ensure complete cooking with a meat thermometer by pushing the point of the thermometer into the thickest part of the meet (usually the drumstick) without touching the bone.  At 325 degrees, the turkey should be cooked until the thermometer register between 180 and 185 degrees.  Stuffing temperature should reach at least 165 degrees.

The New Mexico Poison Center is available for poisoning emergencies, questions about poisons, or for information about poison prevention, 24 hours a day, toll free at 1-800-222-1222.  The New Mexico Poison Center is a service of the New Mexico College of Pharmacy and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

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Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322