Consumer Handling of Whole Turkeys: Identification of Common Mishandling Practices

Sloan Bennett, Jennifer J. Quinlan Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 232-238, Mar 2021 Volume 41, Issue 2: Pages 232–238

Campylobacter and Salmonella remain leading bacterial causes of foodborne illness and are commonly associated with raw poultry. In addition, poultry, both chicken and tur-key, is the most common food associated with foodborne illness outbreaks. Research and education interventions re-garding safe handling of poultry have focused on practices around raw chicken and eggs. There is a lack of research regarding consumer knowledge and practices with respect to whole turkeys. The objective of this research was to better understand consumer practices related to prepar-ing and handling whole turkeys. An online survey of 1,310 consumers found commonly reported unsafe practices with respect to preparing, cooking, and handling a whole turkey. Washing a whole turkey before cooking, either always or sometimes, was reported by 90% of participants, and stuffing a turkey before cooking, either always or sometimes, was reported by 57% of participants. The potentially unsafe practice of cooking a whole turkey at a low temperature overnight was reported by a substan-tial percentage, but not majority, of respondents (23%). However, consumers appropriately reported holding a turkey for less than 2 hours before serving (93%). Results indicate there is a need for targeted education messages regarding how to safely prepare and cook whole turkeys.

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