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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Don’t Let Your Turkey Take Revenge This Thanksgiving

Food Safety advocate Bill Marler provides the best food safety tips for purchasing, storing, and preparing turkey 

Each year, nearly 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illness and one of the main culprits is turkey! Food safety advocate Bill Marler, of Marler Clark, the Food Safety Law Firm, has a few simple tips to help keep your Thanksgiving a joyous occasion.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about the best way to prepare, defrost, and store turkey. Even though it’s a common food, it’s something of a mystery to the average home cook. Unfortunately, when turkey isn’t handled with care, it can cause some pretty serious issues.” Let the turkey take center stage at your Thanksgiving celebrations for all the right reasons with a few straightforward safety tips.

Purchase and Storage

Be sure to pick out your turkey toward the end of your shopping trip and have it bagged separately. Keep turkey frozen immediately after purchase. Do not leave turkey out anywhere.

Thawing

Turkey is safe indefinitely when frozen. It is when the thawing process begins that bacteria has a chance to grow. Below are the three safest ways to properly thaw a turkey:

Refrigerator

  • Plan ahead. Thawing in the fridge takes a significant amount of time to be done properly. Allow one day of thawing for every 4 lbs of turkey.
  • Thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking.
  • Be sure to keep it in a tray to prevent any juices from leaking.

Cold Water

  • Allow 30 minutes of thawing for each pound of turkey.
  • Keep it in a leak-proof plastic bag to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Completely submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water, changing water every 30 minutes.
  • Cook turkey immediately once completely thawed.

Microwave

  • Check your owner’s manual for the minutes per pound and the power level to use for thawing turkey.
  • Be sure to remove all wrapping before microwaving and place in a microwave safe tray to catch juices.
  • Cook turkey immediately once completely thawed.

Cooking

You must use a food thermometer when cooking turkey. A safe internal temperature is 165°F. Set your oven no lower than 325°F and make sure the turkey is completely thawed before cooking. Place the turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2 ½ inches deep.

While it’s best to cook stuffing separately in a casserole, it can be safely cooked inside the turkey. The trick is to not pack in the stuffing—it should be placed loosely with plenty of space in the cavity—and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

It is also very important to remember to thoroughly wash hands and utensils before, during, and especially after working with raw poultry. To prevent cross-contamination, use separate cutting boards for raw turkey and other foods. Make sure to refrigerate any leftovers within two hours of preparation. Do not let turkey or any food fall into the temperature danger zone (between 40°F and 140°F). In other words, don’t take a three hour car ride with frozen or cooked turkey in the trunk!

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of foodborne outbreaks such as E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Listeria. The lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. The law firm has brought lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, Taco Bell, Peanut Corporation of America, ConAgra, Subway, Wal-Mart, and Jimmy John’s.

How to Prevent Foodborne Illness From Visiting This Holiday Season

Food Safety advocate, Bill Marler, discusses how to spread the holiday meal love without spreading foodborne illness; food safety tips for food preparation and transport 

Not only is the holiday season the time of the cold and flu, it is also a time when another and far more deadly sickness thrives: foodborne illness. Each year, it is estimated that 1 in 6 people contract a foodborne illness, such as Salmonella, E. coli, Shigella, or Listeria. Before you prepare a feast for your next holiday potluck, it is important to learn the best ways to prevent you and your loved ones from getting sick. Food safety advocate, Bill Marler of Marler Clark, the Food Safety Law Firm, provides his best food safety tips to help prevent foodborne illness from attending your party.

“The holidays should be a worry free time with family and friends that does not include a trip to the hospital,” said Marler, “Too often have I seen people get sick from food that’s been improperly handled, stored, or prepared—something that really is completely preventable.” While the food we eat during the holidays may not always be the healthiest, we can prevent it from making anyone immediately sick by following a few simple tips:

Plan Ahead

Make a list of all foods that will need to be refrigerated or kept warm, as well as what will be transported. Make a note of how long each food item takes to cook, thaw, and prepare. Pulling out a frozen turkey the day of your party is a recipe for disaster.

Always Use a Digital Thermometer

All food that is cooked should reach the safe internal temperature of 165°F. The only proper way to measure this is by using a digital food thermometer. Also, remember that any warm foods should be kept above 140°F during serving.

Keep Foods Out of the Danger Zone

Any leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of preparation. Do not let any food fall into the temperature danger zone (between 40°F and 140°F). If transporting food, use a cooler or insulated carrier. For best results, avoid long travel times when carrying food.

Thaw All The Way

When defrosting your turkey, or any poultry, be sure to defrost it completely. Never leave it in the car, or outside, or on the counter to thaw. The three safest places to thaw a turkey are in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.

  • When thawing in the refrigerator, allow one day of thawing for every 4 lbs of turkey. Keep it in a tray to prevent any juices from dripping.
  • For cold water thawing, allow 30 minutes of thawing for each pound of turkey. Make sure it is wrapped in a leak-proof plastic bag before completely submerging it in cold water. Change out the water every 30 minutes.
  • To thaw in the microwave, follow the owner’s manual instructions. Be sure to remove all wrapping and place in a microwave safe tray to catch juices.

Turkey should be cooked immediately once completely thawed.

Wash Everything…Multiple Times

The best way to prevent foodborne illness when preparing food is to wash, wash, wash. Wash your hands thoroughly, wash all fresh produce (even pre-packaged greens), and wash all utensils and surfaces. Hands, utensils, and surfaces should be washed before, during, and after each food item is prepared.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Keep all your food items (especially raw meat, poultry, and seafood) separate when purchasing, storing, preparing, and serving. Wrap all meat, poultry, and seafood in a plastic bag and keep separate from raw produce. When serving food, always use a clean plate and use separate serving spoons for each food item.  Do not wash the turkey!

Keep Guests Out

With a ton of delicious food everywhere, guests will be tempted to stick their hands in for tasting or their heads in for smelling. Try to keep your guests out of the kitchen to prevent the spread of all illnesses, including cold and flu. Provide a serving utensil for all foods, including bread, to avoid germs on hands from spreading.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of foodborne outbreaks such as E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Listeria. The lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. The law firm has brought lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, Taco Bell, Peanut Corporation of America, ConAgra, Subway, Wal-Mart, and Jimmy John’s.

CDC: Hold the Raw Sprouts, Please – Especially with Salmonella

Lieutenant Commander Rajal Mody, MD, MPH – CDC:

Lesson 1: A sprouted seed is a perfect vehicle for pathogens.

A sprouting seed is as inviting and nourishing as Salmonella or E coli could want, and the warm, moist conditions in which sprouts are produced only make matters worse. A single Salmonella organism on the outside of a seed can easily grow to an infectious dose after it has sprouted. The bacteria in or on growing sprouts cannot be washed off. Because Shiga toxin-producing E coli (STEC) have a low infectious dose, sprouts are a great vehicle. Sprouts have also been the vehicle for Listeria, which causes a very dangerous infection for pregnant women and the elderly.

Lesson 2: Sprouts have caused many outbreaks of illness.

Since sprouts were first recognized as a source of foodborne disease in the mid-1990s, they have become one of the “usual suspects” that foodborne disease epidemiologists look for when investigating an E coli or Salmonella outbreak. Since 1998, more than 30 outbreaks have been reported to the CDC, due to many different kinds of sprouts — alfalfa, bean, clover, and others. In fact, CDC’s foodborne disease surveillance systems have identified 3 sprouts-associated outbreaks since June of 2010 that spread across multiple states.

Lesson 3: It is difficult to grow “safe” sprouts.

Once the potential dangers of sprouts became known, the US Food and Drug Administration developed guidance to help sprout growers reduce the risk for pathogen contamination in sprouts they produce and sell. Many sprouts growers have implemented practices to decontaminate seeds before sprouting, but no available method has proved completely effective. People who eat raw sprouts ought to know that they are taking a risk, including people who grow their own sprouts, because the contamination typically starts with the seed.

Lesson 4: Sprouts can make even young and healthy people ill.

This is one of the biggest lessons learned from the outbreak in Europe in 2011 and from our experience with outbreaks in this country. Sproutbreaks in the United States predominantly affect healthy persons aged 20-49 years. A typical victim may be an especially health conscious person in the prime of life. Nevertheless, illnesses from sprouts can be particularly severe in vulnerable populations, such as young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with compromised immunity.

Lesson 5: It can be hard for those who become ill to remember having eaten sprouts.

We have found in our investigation of outbreaks that were ultimately linked to sprouts that people often do not remember having eaten them, because they are often just a garnish or just one of many ingredients in a food dish. It is not necessary to eat large quantities of sprouts to make a person sick. An ill person’s inability to accurately recall what they ate sometimes makes it difficult to pinpoint an outbreak of sprouts.

There have been some big Sproutbreaks over the years

2011 – E. coli O104:H4 – Fenugreek Bean Sprouts – Over 4,000 sickened – 900 with kidney failure and 50 deaths – Europe, Canada and U.S.

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6250a3.htm; https://www-s.med.illinois.edu/m2/epidemiology/LiteratureCritique/pdf/Buchholz_2011.pdf

2005 – Salmonella – Mung Bean Sprouts – Over 600 sick – Canada

http://news.ontario.ca/archive/en/2005/12/14/Update-on-Salmonella-Outbreak.html; http://www.sproutnet.com/pdfs/Toronto-Mung-2005.pdf

1996 – E. coli O157:H7 – Radish Sprouts – Over 6,000 sick – Japan

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2640759/pdf/10341179.pdf

My friends at Barf Blog document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988.