While Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family and friends, it’s also important to be aware of the dangers that can arise during the holiday season.
Linda Tannehill, a Health, Home and Family Agent for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, stresses the importance of food safety during the holidays.
“It’s such a concentrated time of people being together and there are a lot of distractions and lots going on with people trying to prepare food and trying to keep it safe at the same time,” said Tannehill.
Tannehill worries that some people might undercook their holiday meals, which could cause illness. She says poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees to be safe.
“It’s a concern and we’re trying to promote people getting a thermometer to make sure the food is safe, because if poultry is undercooked it could cause foodborne illness,” said Tannehill.
To encourage the use of food thermometers, the Cooperative Extension Service is having a drawing for a free food thermometer, as well as providing quizzes regarding various food temperatures.
When determining if meat and poultry is cooked well enough, Tannehill says people should refrain from using the “eyeball” test, because the color of food isn’t a safe way to know if food is cooked properly. According to the USDA, one in four hamburgers turn brown before it is safe to eat.
Tannehill also recommends that people not wash meat and poultry before cooking. She says that the bacteria from the meat and poultry could splash on to other nearby surfaces, including kitchen utensils.
After Thanksgiving meals, people want to relax and be with friends and family, but it’s crucial to remember to properly store any leftovers. What many may believe is the flu, could actually be the result of neglecting food storage.
“The dinner is over, (people) get busy, they start watching football or whatever their family activity is, and before you know it, the two hours that it’s supposed to then go in the refrigerator keeps going longer and longer, so foodborne illness can be a result of food being left out too long,” said Tannehill.
While cooking food at safe temperatures is vital to one’s health, people need to be aware of another issue that could cause problems during the holidays — fires.
Kenai Fire Marshal Tom Carver said that there have been incidents where deep-frying turkeys has caused serious damage to health and property.
Often people use an outdoor turkey-fryer inside, on a deck or under the eaves of a house, which can lead to unexpected consequences. To help prevent accidents, the Kenai Fire Department has posted several Thanksgiving cooking guidelines on its Facebook page.
The Sportsman’s Warehouse has also been helping the community by offering seminars about how to safely cook a turkey.
“One of the biggest things with deep-fried turkeys is making sure the turkey is dry on the outside. Water, oil, splash, flame,” said Brandon Phipps, Assistant Hunting Manager at The Sportsman’s Warehouse. “That’s why we do indoor-safe electronic ones and we always, of course, keep fire extinguishers close on hand, so if anything were to ever happen, we also covered that.”
Phipps explained that on every Saturday this November, The Sportsman’s Warehouse has held a deep-fried turkey seminar, which showed how to deep-fry turkeys, as well as what kind of products are available to use during the process.
“One of the reasons why deep-fried turkeys went away was because the fact of them using an open flame and a pot of oil and catching fire,” said Phipps. “Well, now we have indoor-safe deep-fryers for turkeys that use an electric coil rather than a flame.”
The Kenai Fire Department warns people about the importance of having functioning smoke detectors. According to Carver, it’s not uncommon for children to be given gifts requiring nine-volt batteries and instead of taking time to buy new ones, many parents have been known to use the ones from the fire detectors.
During this time of giving, he says people should be prudent about having working batteries in smoke detectors, in case an of an accident during the holidays or any other time.
Being safe is the most important part of the holidays.
“However you cook your turkey, be extra careful,” said Carver.
For more food safety tips, go to: http://www.uaf.edu/ces/districts/kenai/
Reach Ian Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org