Almost half of people surveyed still wash their turkeys before cooking despite this practice being against food safety advice.

Based on research in Ireland commissioned by the safefood organization, 43 percent of people wash turkey before cooking, which can spread food poisoning germs around kitchen surfaces, utensils, hands, and ready-to-eat foods. Even the smallest drop of water or overspray from faucets can carry enough pathogens to cause food poisoning.

The research, conducted by iReach, was done from Nov. 28 to Dec. 4 as part of the iReach Consumer Nationwide Omnibus survey delivering 1,000 responses on a nationally representative basis.

Almost one in six of the respondents said they leave turkey out of the refrigerator, sometimes overnight, mistakenly thinking this is the safest way to store and thaw it. For advice visit the Christmas section of the safefood website

Common misconceptions
Just more than half use the “color of the juices” to determine whether the turkey is safely cooked, which is not reliable. Nearly one in four incorrectly determine if a turkey is fully cooked by cooking time only.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says turkey and other poultry should be cooked to a temperature of 74 degrees C (165 degrees F). A food thermometer should be used in the thickest part of the bird, usually the breast. Leftover poultry should be reheated to 74 degrees C (165 degrees F).

Dr. Linda Gordon, chief specialist in food science at safefood, said there are still misconceptions on how to prepare and store Christmas dinner safely.

“If you have Christmas leftovers, these should be covered and placed in the fridge within two hours of cooking and used within three days,” she said.

Using leftovers
One quarter of Irish people will be cooking their first ever Christmas dinner this year, with another 17 percent of survey respondents claiming to be novices, having only done it once or twice before.

A total of 16 percent plan to re-use their leftover turkey four days or more after cooking, which is not advisable. But, 84 percent plan to use leftover turkey within one to three days, which is safe if it is stored properly.

More than half of people surveyed look online for information and guidelines to research how to prepare holiday turkeys, while 35 percent consult special seasonal cook books and 23 percent check out TV cooking programs.

Chef, restaurateur and author JP McMahon said the pressure to make Christmas the best meal of the year is very high.

“Being prepared is the key, so if you have a clear idea of what you are doing and follow proper food hygiene practices, you’re off to a great start. Plan everything out beforehand and stick to that plan,” said McMahon.

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