Salmonella Scare: Here's How To Make Sure Your Thanksgiving Day Turkey Is Safe

In the wake of a monthslong nationwide Salmonella outbreak - and just in time for Thanksgiving - involving raw turkey products, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering tips to ensure that Americans stay healthy during the holiday.

Thanksgiving turkey.
Thanksgiving turkey. Photo Credit: File photo

Thousands of pounds of turkey products have been recalled that may be associated with an illness outbreak of Salmonella. The outbreak has resulted in one death and 164 reported illnesses in 35 states. Approximately half of those who got sick were hospitalized.

According to Consumer Reports, during routine testing of turkey processing facilities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service found the same strain of salmonella that has been making people sick in 22 slaughtering facilities and seven processing establishments.

In response, the USDA said it did not have the evidence to point to a single common supplier of turkey products and that “it would be grossly irresponsible and reckless to associate producers with an outbreak investigation, when a link from an establishment to an illness has not been made.”  

Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days.

Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

With Thanksgiving just days away, several tips have been provided to consumers to help them stay safe and healthy:

  • Thaw the turkey in the fridge, not on a kitchen counter;
  • Don’t wash a raw turkey before preparing it, as it may spread germs around the kitchen;
  • Don’t stuff it: According to the USDA, the safest way to cook stuffing is outside of the turkey. Stuffing can absorb the juices from the raw turkey. If the stuffing doesn’t get hot enough, it could leave one susceptible to food poisoning;
  • Use a meat thermometer;
  • Test the temperature in multiple places;
  • Refrigerate leftovers immediately;
  • Don’t feed pets raw turkey. 

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