Fear your feast...some good advice from Health Canada

By Contributor
October 8th, 2013

Cooked turkey is often served at holiday celebrations in Canada — especially Thanksgiving. Health Canada would like to remind all Canadians of some steps they can take to help ensure their turkey feast is a safe one.

What you should do

Clean, separate, cook and chill! Follow these four food safety steps when preparing your turkey and you can help reduce the risk of getting sick from undercooked turkey and stuffing, and from cross-contamination.


  • Wash your hands carefully with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw poultry.
  • Clean and sanitize the sink, surfaces and kitchen utensils touched by raw or thawing turkey and its juices.


  • Store your turkey in a leak-proof bag or container in the refrigerator or freezer immediately after you buy it.
  • Thawing your turkey at room temperature is discouraged. It’s better to thaw turkey in the refrigerator or in cold water.
  • If you thaw your turkey in cold water, keep the turkey in its original wrapping and change the cold water regularly to ensure that the water remains cold.
  • Don’t rinse raw turkey before cooking it. This can spread bacteria everywhere the water splashes, creating a safety hazard.


  • Use a digital food thermometer, and cook turkey until the temperature of the thickest part of the breast or thigh is at least 85ºC (185ºF).
  • Cook stuffing separately in its own oven dish or on the stove top.  If you do stuff your turkey, stuff loosely just prior to roasting, and remove all stuffing immediately after cooking.  Cook stuffing to a minimum internal temperature of 74ºC (165ºF).


  • Refrigerate all leftovers within two hours of cooking. Use leftover turkey meat, stuffing, gravy and other cooked dishes within two to three days or freeze right away for later use.
  • You can safely re-freeze poultry that has not been fully defrosted, if the meat is still cold and ice crystals are present.
  • Foods such as fully cooked turkey and potatoes can be eaten cold. Gravy should be reheated to reach a full boil and other leftovers should be reheated to at least 74ºC (165ºF).

Turkey poses particular food safety challenges because it can be contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps. It’s estimated that there are approximately 4 million cases of food-related illnesses in Canada every year.  Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

This article is a press release from Health Canada.

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