|Food Safety and Inspection
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
Susan Conley (202) 720-7943
Jerry Redding (202) 720-6959
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2000 -- No matter how you slice it, holiday meat will be done safely and turn out better if cooks use a food thermometer. To educate cooks on food safety and encourage the use of a food thermometer, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) created "Thermy™," a new food safety messenger. Thermy™ is a characterization of a digital food thermometer.
Using a food thermometer is the only way to tell if food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria and that it is the desired doneness. Unfortunately not all cooks use a food thermometer and thousands of Americans could fall victim to foodborne illnesses this holiday season after consuming food that isn’t cooked to a safe temperature.
Susan Conley, director of Food Safety Education for FSIS, says, "We're using Thermy™ to encourage consumers to use food thermometers throughout the year, but it's very important at holiday time. Thermy™'s message is, ‘It's safe to bite when the temperature's right.’ That means if a food has reached a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria, it is safe to eat. It will also be a tastier, more juicy product because it’s not overcooked!"
If a golden-brown whole turkey will be the centerpiece of the holiday table, a food thermometer should be used to be sure the turkey reaches an internal temperature of at least 180 degrees F. The thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the thigh between the leg and the breast. If cooking only the turkey breast, it should reach 170 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast.
For safety and quality, it's best not to stuff a turkey but to bake the stuffing in a casserole until it reaches 165 degrees F. However, if the turkey is stuffed, a thermometer must be used to determine the temperature of the stuffing. Even if the thigh has reached 180 degrees F, cooking must continue until the center of the stuffing has reached 165 degrees F.
Turkeys aren’t the only meat on holiday tables. Other poultry and numerous other meats are also traditional at holiday gatherings. Some families choose a goose, duck, rib roast, ham, or perhaps a fancy crown roast of lamb or pork. When roasting a turkey or other holiday meats, the minimum oven temperature is 325 degrees F.
Beef, veal, and lamb roasts can be cooked to medium rare (145 °F), medium (160 °F), or well done (170 °F). Fresh ham and pork roasts should be cooked to medium (160 °F) or well done (170 °F). If fully cooked hams are reheated, a food thermometer should be used to be sure the meat reaches 140 °F.
Fresh game meats should reach 160 °F throughout to kill foodborne bacteria and parasites. Whole game birds as well as domestically raised ducks, geese, capons, Cornish hens, and other chicken should be cooked to the same temperatures as for turkey: 180 °F in the thigh of whole birds; 170 °F if roasting only the breast meat.
Having Thermy™ on hand for the holidays is one of the four steps in avoiding foodborne illness. As part of the national "Fight BAC!™" campaign, the BAC messenger advises: cook thoroughly, clean hands and surfaces, separate raw and cooked foods, and chill leftovers promptly.
For additional food safety information about meat, poultry, or eggs, call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1 (800) 535-4555; Washington, DC area, (202) 720-3333; TTY: 1 (800) 256-7072. It is staffed by home economists, registered dietitians, and food technologists weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time, year round. An extensive selection of food safety recordings can be heard 24 hours a day using a touch-tone phone.
Visit the FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov
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For Further Information, Contact:
FSIS Congressional and Public Affairs Staff
Phone: (202) 720-9113
Fax: (202) 690-0460
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