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Pat Kelly

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FoodFit Press


Washington Post

November 25, 2002

(Excerpts from transcript)

As you prepare your kitchen for holiday cooking and refine your culinary skills, why not refresh yourself with some basic safety tips? Where should you thaw your turkey—on the kitchen counter or in the refrigerator? How long should you cook your turkey and when can you stuff it? How should you prepare your stuffing?

Whether you have prepared holiday meals throughout the years or are preparing your first holiday dinner, join founder Ellen Haas to talk about holiday food safety.

Her achievements range from overseeing a complete revision of the school lunch program to writing "Great Adventures in Food (1999)." She is the associate editor of the Encyclopedia on Food (2000), and the author of "Food, Family & Fun: A Seasonal Guide to Healthy Eating (1996)." She is also the founder of, a comprehensive site that offers personalized food and fitness guidance. She has served as a five-time president of the Consumer Federation of America and founded the Public Voice for Food and Health Policy in 1982. She also was appointed by President Clinton to be the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services for four years.

She received the American Heart Association National Public Affairs Special Recognition Award in 1994, and the Parenting Magazine "Parenting Achievement Award" in 1996. She's on the board of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, and the American Institute of Wine and Food, Washington chapter, and has served on a wide range of task forces, delegations and non-profit boards.

Ellen Haas: Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday that brings friends and family together, but also can present problems if we are not careful to keep food safety in mind. At we are dedicated to making this your best thanksgiving celebration ever and we have thousands of delicious recipes and information about healthy eating and cooking—and all kinds of tips and tools so that your day is a safe one, too. I look forward to helping you make this year's feast a delcious and safe one.

Potomac, Md.: What should you do if you have taken the turkey out of the oven...reached proper temperature...and then while carving notice uncooked juices? Do you put everything back into the oven? Serve the cooked part? Go to McDonalds?

Ellen Haas: the important thing to remember about reaching the right temperature is to make sure that you have gotten an accurate reading. The way to do that is make sure you put the thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh. Because this is the thickest part of the turkey, it should all be cooked when it says it has reached 180 degrees.

If you are concerned that it is not adequately cooked, then put it back for 10 minutes and check again.

Loudoun, Va.: Hi Ellen,

How long is it safe to keep leftover Turkey in the fridge?


Ellen Haas: To enjoy safe leftovers it is best to use them within 4 days, except stuffing and gravy which should be used within 2 days. When using leftover gravy make sure that it is brought to boiling before you serve it. Also make sure to refrigerate or freeze all your leftovers in shallow containers. That way bacteria do not grow.

If you think you have a lot of leftovers it is safe and efficient to freeze them for another day. They can be kept in the freezer for four months.

Bethesda, Md.: Ms. Haas:

First of all, thanks for all of the great work you have done—I've followed your career at different points and you have truly "made a difference!"

I have two specific questions about food safety: first, when cooking raw meat (any kind) and stirring it with a wooden spoon, like cooking ground beef or sauteeing chicken, should you change the spoon at some point when the meat is more cooked? (I know this sounds a little obsessive—I'm really not that crazy, but it's something I've always wondered about).

Second, I've just gotten a slow cooker/crockpot. How safe would it be to cook raw chicken or other meat in it?

Ellen Haas: Thanks so much for your nice comments.

I share your appreciation of cooking with a wooden spoon, but when cooking meat or poultry it is safeer to use a stainless or plastic spoon. That way, particles of food don't get caught in the cracks. Try and save your wooden spoon for cold mixing and preparing sauces, cakes and breads. I don't think you are crazy or obsessed but concerned about food safety...that should be normal for everyone.

Now that winter is coming crockpots can be a big help for stew making. Follow the manufacturer's suggestions for cooking and it should be ok to cook raw chicken and meat if they say so in their brochure or directions.

Washington, D.C.: What difference does it make storing your leftovers in shallow containers?

Ellen Haas: Shallow containers help prevent contamination because the food will cool down faster and will not trap heat. You want your turkey, sides etc to cool down as quick as possible so that you do not give an environment for breeding bacteria.

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