Thanksgiving is a time to be especially careful of foodborne illness as Americans prepare dishes, like turkey, that they may not cook on a regular basis.

“A lot of folks think that they need to wash their turkey,” said Chris Bernstein, Director, Food Safety Education Staff at the US Department of Agriculture. USDA has done extensive research on this subject and we found in our research that when folks wash meat or poultry, they’re much more likely to cross-contaminate all sorts of surfaces in their kitchen, including other food they’re going to be serving.”

Don’t wash your turkey, just cook it thoroughly to 165 degrees as measured by a meat thermometer.

“That will kill any bacteria that’s present,” said Bernstein. “When you do wash in the sink, what we found in our research is that those germs are really sticky. They will stay in the inner sink, they will stay on cutting boards. They will stay on surfaces around the kitchen.”

Don’t wash your turkey, but as you cook it is important to wash something else.

“Wash your hands and make sure all your guests are washing their hands,” said Bernstein. “In some of that research I talked about, just scary numbers of people did not even try to wash their hands before
they started cooking. Even scarier numbers of people did not wash their hands in the middle of the cooking process, say after they handled raw meat or poultry.”

Three-quarters of people did not wash their hands after doing something that would have made their hands dirty.