Day 321–Talking Turkey

Turkey

Turkey (Photo credit: wattpublishing)

I love turkey. I have been known (several times) to head to the store the day AFTER Thanksgiving to purchase another turkey (on sale) because I didn’t get enough of the first one. It’s not only the turkey itself, but all the yummy, comfort food leftovers that come from extra turkey–turkey pot pie, turkey hash, turkey sandwiches, turkey soup…

We recently had a conversation at work about turkey preparation and the subject of washing the turkey came up. Personally, I hate that part. There are few things more irritating than trying to rinse out an 18 pound turkey in a regular sized sink.  What a mess. I have a friend (not naming names, but you know who you are) who actually rinses her turkey in a bleach and water mixture. I’m all for avoiding bad bacteria, but not enough to ingest toxins in place of them.

So, I was delighted to find information from the US Department of Agriculture that directs consumers NOT to wash poultry. Why not? Apparently a study in the UK found that washing your chicken or turkey can spray salmonella bacteria up to 3 feet away from your sink, accidentally contaminating food prep surfaces (and other foods). Washing doesn’t remove the bacteria, it just spreads it around. In addition, if you are cooking your birds to the prescribed 165 degrees, all bacteria will be killed by heat anyway.

So here are some tips for enjoying your turkey and making sure you don’t get some horrible family reputation for making everyone ill:

  • If you buy a frozen turkey, thaw it in the refrigerator, not on the counter and NOT in a sink of warm water.
  • Wash your hands, utensils and all food prep services that come into contact with raw poultry with soap and warm/hot water.
  • Cook your turkey to an internal temperature of 165.
  • Do not leave leftovers out for more than 30 minutes.

Food habits are hard to break, but I feel better about being a little lazy and not “cleaning” my turkey this year.

Tomorrow I will post our planned turkey cooking strategy!

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Day 268–Best Practices for Garden Food Safety!

Many of us know how to put a plant in the ground and give it some basic TLC to get it growing. But how do we make sure that the gardens we plant yield safe food that will not unintentionally make us sick? And what can we do to make sure children working with us are safe? The North Carolina organization, Advocates for Health in Action have a new web-based resource to address those issues. While it is primarily designed for people starting community gardens, I found plenty of tips for my own home garden!

Here is the link to the booklet. Happy (and safe) fall gardening!

Day 44–Non-toxic Food Storage

Almost all the plastic ever produced still exists on earth. That totally creeps me out.

One of the jobs I have been meaning to tackle involves researching food storage safety, and finding out more about plastics and food safety. After reading many articles and several studies, my take on it is that no one really knows the full extent of plastic safety, and most scientists and health advocates recommend further study of plastics and food.

Most people are familiar with BPA (bisphenol-A) by now and many manufacturers (including Tupperware, Glad and Ziploc)  have worked hard to create BPA-free products. BPA is known to damage the reproduction systems of animals and its ability to mimic estrogen is thought to contribute to prostate and breast cancer. But really, is BPA the only thing to worry about? Food microwaved in BPA-free plastic still tastes weird, leading me (not a scientist by any stretch) to think that there is more to it than just BPA. Indeed, many plastics also leach phthalates. Banned in Europe, Japan, Mexico and Argentina. The U.S.? Nope.

Here is the crazy thing. Leaching petrochemicals and other potential toxins into your food is ALLOWED by the FDA if they are present in levels the FDA deems to be “safe”. Note that these materials have not been proven “safe,” they just haven’t been proven “unsafe.”

Considering the FDA’s lackadaisical record for food supply safety lately and combining that with the plastic industry’s heavy-handed lobby, I think I’m not feeling to trustworthy of their definition of “safe.”

But plastics are EVERYWHERE, even in the linings of your canned food and the linings of jar lids. How can you avoid them or at least reduce your risk to known and potential carcinogens? I’ve crossed checked several sources and put together a list of tips on how to reduce your family’s exposure to plastics. Ready? Here goes!

  1. Know your numbers–every plastic has a number on it (usually on the bottom of the container). Numbers 1,2,4, and 5 are thought to be safer (not SAFE, but SAFER) to use with food. Numbers 3,6 and 7 should be avoided, as these plastics are known to be unstable, especially if reused.
  2. Never serve or store hot foods in plastic. As plastics warm and soften, they can leach petrochemicals and other toxins into your food.
  3. Do not store high fat foods in plastic. For similar reasons as above, high fat foods interact with the plastic in such a way that transfer of chemicals and toxins are more likely.
  4. Never microwave food in plastic. Not only can toxins leach into your food due to warming, toxins present in the steam can be inhaled.
  5. Avoid using deli or plastic wrap. When shopping, you can ask your deli to use unbleached paper or unbleached waxed paper only. Or you can transfer your products into safer packaging when you get home.
  6. Store and reheat your leftovers in glass containers. Unlike many plastics, you can reuse jars as long as they are cleaned well.
  7. Buy pots and pans without Teflon or other non-stick coatings. If you use non-stick pans, run your kitchen ventilation system while you cook.

My weekend task was to clean out all of our plastic food storage and relegate those containers for camping equipment and craft supplies. We now have glass food containers in various sizes for our leftovers. Bed, Bath and Beyond has sets that are affordable ($19 for a set of 5–less if you have your coupon!) and Crate and Barrel also has some that look good, but are a bit pricier. I have to say, I feel a sense of relief knowing that we have made a small, but meaningful step toward reducing our household toxicity!