Food Safety Issues/food safety

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Question
I cooked a 19 lb turkey to 190 degrees internal temp. It was done at 3:30, partially carved by 4:00. Covered bird around 7:00 with foil but it never made it from the counter to the frig. Came home around 11:30 & put in the frig. Is this safe to eat cold or heat up & eat?

Answer
Hi Linda,

First -- I hope you and your family had a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Since your "bird" was out of the oven and in the "Danger Zone" (41 to 135 degrees F) for 8 hours, the current recommendation is to not take a chance and consume it, either hot or cold.  As the turkey cooled down to a temperature within the Danger Zone, any harmful bacteria that might have been present from other sources (hands, utensils, etc) might have grown. Bacteria that cause man harm grow rapidly within the Danger Zone, especially between 70 and 110 degrees. Chances are your turkey cooled down to this temperature range and stayed there during the time it was out on the counter.

I know you are thinking...but I covered it. No bacteria could have "gotten in."  The problem is -- you don't know since you can't see, taste or smell the bacteria.  We only know that the potential for contamination is there since the right environment has been provided for growth. The other problem is some bacteria produce a waste product during growth that is toxic and not destroyed by heat.  In other words, reheating a food that has been temperature abused does not make it automatically safe to consume.

If you were a restaurant, you would be allowed to serve the turkey up to 4 hours out of the oven (without keeping it hot) but would then have to throw it out.  

The problem is you can't tell if your turkey is still safe. All we do know is that there is the possibility that it is not safe.  While the chances for a foodborne illness are low, there still is a chance.  

Sorry...wish I had better news for you.

Carol

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Carol Schlitt

Expertise

I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.

Experience

I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc - www.safeandsavorysolution.com

Organizations
National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

Education/Credentials
BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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