Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica A. Chittenden

November 24, 2008

Put Food Safety on The Menu This Holiday Season

Prevent Food Borne Illness by Practicing Food Safety for Holiday Meals

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker and Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. today reminded consumers to follow cooking and preparation tips when preparing meals during the upcoming holiday season. Many food borne illnesses are preventable if consumers take simple measures to protect themselves and their families.

"With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s important for people to know how to properly prepare their holiday meal, while protecting their families and friends from possible food borne illness," Commissioner Hooker said. "So please be sure to include food safety on the menu to ensure that your holidays are filled with both health and happiness."

"Anyone may experience foodborne illness, but it’s especially serious for pregnant women, babies and the elderly who may have fragile immune systems," Commissioner Daines said. "To avoid the potential for illness, it’s important for New Yorkers and their families to take the time and a few, simple steps to practice safe food handling, preparation and storage practices during Thanksgiving. Don’t let food borne illness ruin your holiday meal."

Safe and proper food handling practices in the home are critical in preventing food borne illnesses. One top concern this time of year is the increased risk of illness resulting from stuffing turkeys prior to cooking. Food safety experts recommend cooking stuffing separately from the turkey to avoid the potential for bacteria growth. Here are some other tips to follow for a safe holiday season:

· Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator at 45 degrees, not on the counter. Thawing at room temperature promotes bacteria growth. Be sure to allow 24 hours of defrosting for each five pounds of turkey.

· The safest way to cook the stuffing is separate from the turkey. Stuffing placed in an uncooked turkey is susceptible to bacteria growth. However, if you choose to cook the stuffing in the turkey, stuff it loosely to ensure safe, even cooking, and be sure the stuffing in the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

· Be sure to thoroughly cook the turkey at 325 degrees. Cooking a turkey at less than 325 degrees is unsafe because it allows the turkey and stuffing to remain in the danger zone for bacterial growth for too long. A whole turkey should reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature, even if the turkey has a "pop up" temperature indicator.

Unstuffed Turkey

Cooking Time

Stuffed Turkey

Cooking Time

8 – 12 lbs.

2.75 – 3 hours

8 – 12 lbs.

3 – 3.5 hours

12 – 14 lbs.

3 – 3.75 hours

12 – 14 lbs.

3.5 – 4 hours

14 – 18 lbs.

3.75 – 4.25 hours

14 – 18 lbs.

4 – 4.5 hours

18 – 20 lbs.

4.25 – 4.5 hours

18 – 20 lbs.

4.25 – 4.75 hours

20 – 24 lbs.

4.5 – 5 hours

20 – 24 lbs.

4.75 – 5.25 hours


· Do not interrupt the cooking process. Interrupting the cooking process promotes bacteria growth.

· When preparing your meal, thoroughly wash hands, cutting boards and utensils before and after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood apart from foods that won’t be cooked.

· Be careful with holiday buffets. Servings should be kept small and replenished often directly from the stove or refrigerator. The longer food is kept out, especially beyond two hours, the higher the risk of food poisoning. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

· Carefully store leftovers. Slice the turkey before refrigerating; whole turkeys do not store safely in the refrigerator. Store the turkey and stuffing in separate, shallow, covered containers and refrigerate at 45 degrees or below within two hours of cooking. Perishable foods left at room temperature for longer than two hours are susceptible to bacterial growth. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within four days, gravy within two days.

With a greater potential for food poisoning over the holidays, it is important that consumers follow safe food handling, preparation and storage practices. Consumers can learn more about food safety tips by logging onto the Department of Agriculture and Markets’ website at, or onto the Department of Health’s website at

2008 Press Releases