Dec. 14, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 49



Salmonella something to beware when cooking the turkey


Watch the preparation of the holiday bird or you may be the one feeling like a turkey with a salmonella hangover.

The risk of food poisoning with the pesky bacterium is extremely low if you prepare your food properly, says Dr. John Gunn, assistant professor of microbiology at the Health Science Center. An estimated 40,000 cases of salmonella-related food poisoning are reported annually, but Dr. Gunn believes the number of actual cases may be 10 times higher. "The acute symptoms of salmonella gastroenteritis include the sudden onset of nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea," he says. Although the infection is fatal less than 1 percent of the time, it nonetheless poses a serious threat to holiday merriment.

Dangers include leaving the stuffing inside the turkey for too long a time, not cooking the turkey thoroughly or to the correct temperature, and leaving out leftovers at room temperature too long. Holiday chefs should wash their hands before and during food preparation and make sure the refrigerator is working correctly.

Campylobacter is another microorganism that could affect turkey if it is improperly prepared or refrigerated, Dr. Gunn says.