Thanksgiving Australia style, 2015 edition

We’ve tried Thanksgiving a few times in Australia.

We did the Canadian one because it was earlier and not so hot, we did the U.S one. and it’s too hot, so after four years we found a model that may have worked.

amy.thanksgiving.nov.15Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. No religion, just good food to celebrate the harvest. We have traditionally hosted friends, family and students to share the feast each year.

So this year we adapted to Australian weather, and had about 30 people – that includes a bunch of kids – to a park.

We have fabulous parks.

The kids had a great playground and an area for rollerblading, scooters, whatever, the breezes from the river were good, and we did it picnic style.

I cooked the turkey and duck the night before – to a microbiologically safe temperature as determined by a tip-sensitive digital thermometer — and then refrigerated overnight.

Saturday morning, I carved up the birds – and underestimated the popularity – and made a casserole-based stuffing. Amy made potato salad, our friends brought sides, it was a relaxing four hours.

The hockey parents talked hockey gossip, the neighbors talked town home gossip, I stayed out of the way and tried to make sure everyone was fed.


kids.thanksgiving.nov.15They all said they had never had anything like stuffing, so that was sorta cool.

We took a hockey kid home for 24 hours so his Canadian dad could play baseball.

Cause that’s how we roll.

And look how happy Hubbell is (hard to see).

Then we played hockey Sunday am.

Avoid holiday pathogen starter kit: Thanksgiving leftovers version

Friend of the, Michéle Samarya-Timm, with the Somerset County Department of Health (Jersey, represent) writes:

thanksgiving.leftoversWhile conducting my annual perusal of online Thanksgiving hints, tips, tweets and infographics,  I began musing about Thanksgiving post-dinner activities.  You know, when folks are leaning back with turkey fatigue, food scraps begin congealing on individual dinner plates, the buffet resembles a feeding frenzy at the zoo, and the kitchen is stacked with pots clogged with unused remnants of fall harvest traditions.

This mellow and restrained moment often progress into a free-for-all, where guests start jockeying for position to grab leftovers to take back home. This lineup becomes fueled by individual dreams of creating a Friday morning shooter sandwich, turlafel, magical mystery mush or similar creative concoction of post-Thanksgiving residuals.  And so, the mad pantry hunt for tin foil, old Tupperware containers or the box of zippy bags begins.  You know it will happen.  With this in mind, shouldn’t leftover planning be a natural extension of Thanksgiving food prep?

An ideal Thanksgiving schedule allows adequate time for food preparation, thorough cooking and proper cooling of leftovers.  Just like asking the family culinary wiz to carve the turkey, the host (or guest) with the most knowledge should be tasked with overseeing the holiday food safety.

Why? You’ve heard the two-hour rule:  Never let hot or cold food sit on the dinner table or on the counter for more than 2 hours.  After two hours, the food has cooled to the point that it’s in the food danger zone – 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F – the range where bacteria can rapidly reproduce and contaminate the food.   This can be a tall task during a holiday meal, but one that is achievable with some creativity.

mr-creosoteDevelop a game plan for any extra perishable food.  After filling serving dishes in the kitchen, immediately divide up the remaining vittles into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and promptly refrigerate.  For leftovers tableside, invite guests to pack up what they’d like before the end of that 2-hour window, (try setting a music loop as a timer for that two hours) and encourage folks to stay for more coffee while their take-home bag is chilling in the fridge or freezer before the ride back home.  With that, zippy bags full of water make great cheap ice packs for that added touch of food-safety caring to-go.

Labeling the food packages makes sense so those who rave about your potatoes with marshmallows don’t find themselves with roasted brussels sprouts. In addition to including recipient names and food contents, labeling containers with safe reheating instructions (to 165 degrees!) ads that little-something extra –  and cute, printable tags found online can be adapted for this purpose.

Is that necessary?  While folks may be more likely to check the Thanksgiving turkey with a thermometer for doneness (after all, how embarrassing to carve a half-raw bird in front of a table full of salivating guests?),  FDA reports that 97% of leftover eaters don’t use a food thermometer before eating to check if the food is safety reheated to prevent possible foodborne illness.  You know Aunt Gladys, Uncle Charlie, and your loopy neighbors. Do you want to gamble that these guests are part of the 3% who safely prepare resurrected meals?

Take home meals can take on a life of their own if not properly handled. Reimagining Thanksgiving leftovers takes on a whole new meaning if not eaten over the holiday weekend.  After all, the idea isn’t how long the food is pretty or tasty…it’s how long before  it  can create ill effects. Two storage options exist:  Refrigerate and safely eat within 3 to 4 days (that’s Monday), or freeze at 0 degrees F for a longer lasting souvenir.

Enjoy the holiday with your family and friends. And when providing guests with take-home packages of harvest bounty, aim to give them ingredients for post-meal happiness, not a holiday pathogen starter kit.

With much appreciation to all the good folks working to prevent foodborne outbreaks.  

A labelling mess and a technology fix, turkey edition

My latest column for Texas A&M’s Center for Food Safety:

I have this weird affliction (among many): The more I read about a food involved in an outbreak, the more I crave it.

mr-bean-turkey(6)Mad cow disease, I want beef

Salmonella in eggs; I want an omelette

WHO cancer report? Had a steak the next day, and gave the kid a salami sandwich for lunch.

Salmonella in peanut butter? Won’t go there, never liked peanut butter.

The point is that crises or occasions are opportunities to get compelling food safety information into the public discourse.

Unfortunately, most of it sucks.

The U.S. glutton-fest known as Thanksgiving, which kicks off the six-week shopping orgy until Christmas, has appeared on calendars again.

As you do.

And simultaneously, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finally approved genetically engineered salmon that has been in the works for over a decade (or two, I can’t keep track).

This has sparked a call for labels on all things genetically modified (I prefer engineered, all food is genetically modified).

FDA says, there’s no legal requirement for companies to label foods as genetically modified.

turkey.headAs you do.

Because FDA’s job is to regulate based on safety, not on consumer whims.

If retailers and consumer groups want to make a fuss, go ahead.

But your arguments suck.

I’ve always been a fan of full disclosure whether it’s labeling, point-of-sale info, a web url, provide full information on how food is produced.

Most people don’t care, but some do, and they can make a lot of noise.

When we sold genetically-engineered and conventional sweet corn and potatoes at a local market in Ontario (that’s in Canada) back in 2000, people preferred the GE stuff – because it required no pesticides.

The more info the better – for those who care.

With turkeys, consumers are, according to NPR , inundated with labels: natural, fresh, no hormones, young, premium and so on.

Fresh has nothing to do with the time between slaughter and sale. Instead, it means that the turkey has not been cooled to below 26 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, it was never frozen.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not define young for turkeys, but it requires that turkeys that lived more than a year be labeled as yearling or mature.

USDA says natural means no artificial ingredients have been added to the turkey meat, and the meat is only minimally processed.

Free-Range are raised in the standard, crowded houses but have access to the outdoors.

Premium means nothing.

No Hormones Added means nothing: By USDA law, turkeys (and other poultry) are not allowed to be given growth hormones.

And so it goes.

A possible fix is using smart phones and QR codes, so those who care can find out everything – and I mean everything, including if the seed was derived from radiation mutagenesis, a primal form of genetic engineering – if they want.

Meanwhile, we have enough food safety idiots practicing the things that actually make people sick.

During a cooking segment on the Today show this month, Matt Lauer handled an uncooked turkey, wiped his hands with a towel, then grabbed a piece of the cooked turkey that was sitting nearby and gobbled it down.

The tweets said, “Enjoy Salmonella for the next 24 hours, idiot,” and “We were screaming at the television set. Did you not hear us?” Lauer apologetically explained all of this on the next day’s show.

Other holiday tips:

Do not wash turkey.

Do not place a whole turkey over your head.

Do not pass babies with leaky diapers around the table.

In 2005, one American recalled how, when dessert arrived, the family started passing around the newborn baby. As recounted on the Internet site,, “Apparently, the baby had a pretty full diaper, and it was kinda leaking. He was passed to my uncle, and then passed to someone else. What my uncle didn’t notice was that a little something rubbed off of the baby as he was passed. He looks down on his tie and sees what he believes is some pumpkin pie filling, so he scrapes it off, and takes a bite. He spent the rest of the night in the back yard throwing up.”

We’ll be having turkey and duck with friends on the weekend. It’ll be safe.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.


Top-10 turkey questions the Butterball hotline has ever been asked

Butterball’s Talk-Line has helped confused cooks with Thanksgiving turkey prep since its inception 35 years ago — and while the service has successfully churned out thousands of responses to common questions, which the company so

botterball.hotline1.So I’m looking at a turkey from 1969 sitting here in my father’s freezer … any tips on the best way to cook a 30-year-old bird?

The Talk-Line suggested the man throw out the old turkey and purchase a new one. Then, the Talk-Line suggested to cook the turkey in the open roasting pan method.

  1. How do I roast my turkey so it gets golden brown tan lines — in the shape of a turkey bikini?

The experts helped to create a “bikini look” by using aluminum foil in certain places on the turkey.

  1. How to carve a turkey when all of its bones have been broken?
  2. I carved my turkey with a chainsaw … is the chain grease going to adversely affect my turkey?
  3. Why does my turkey have no breast meat?

A disappointed woman called wondering why her turkey had no breast meat. After a conversation with a Talk-Line operator, it became apparent that the woman’s turkey was lying on the table upside down.

  1. It’s my first Thanksgiving and I have a tiny apartment-sized oven … how much will my turkey expand when cooking?
  2. How do I get my turkey to stop sudsing? Is a soapy turkey recoverable?

A first-time Thanksgiving chef called after she had washed her turkey with dish soap. You don’t have to clean your turkey, simply pat the extra juices dry with paper towels before stuffing or roasting the turkey.

  1. For the sake of delicious smells, can I cook my turkey over the course of four days?

The Talk-Line doesn’t recommend slow-cooking your turkey over the course of multiple days. You are able to use a slow cooker if needed, but experts would recommend 6-8 hours in the slow cooker. If cooking in the oven, it should only take a few hours to cook.

  1. How do I baste a pre-basted turkey?

Some folks love to baste the turkey while it’s cooking. If you’re one of them, the Talk-Line suggests basting only a few times during the cooking process so you don’t continuously let out the heat of the oven.

  1. My turkey thawed on my lap … can I eat it?

A gentleman won a turkey at the casino, and brought it home on the bus where it had thawed. The safest way to thaw your turkey is in the refrigerator — it takes one day for every four pounds of turkey.

Don’t poop in the pool, or be careful at resorts

A couple were struck down with Salmonella after staying in a Turkish hotel where several other guests fell ill with an unspecified illness.

Majesty Club Tarhan Beach hotel in DidimJames, 36, and Amanda Billaney, 35, were diagnosed after staying at the Majesty Club Tarhan Beach hotel in Didim on the west coast.

They and their children aged nine, seven and three, of Hull, were all ill. They blamed children reportedly having diarrhea in a pool.

Other families told on TripAdvisor of unspecified illness with one writing: “Our holiday was a nightmare, staff were also ill and at least five families.”

Slater & Gordon, lawyers for several holidaymakers, are investigating an alleged “breakdown in hygiene”.

The hotel said there had been “some kind of infection/virus” and it had stepped up cleaning.


The food taster: Turkish edition

In a modern twist on a self-preservation tactic used by cautious kings and pharaohs, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is having his food tested before he eats — not by a human taster, though, but in the lab.

food.taster-195x300Mr. Erdogan’s physician, Dr. Cevdet Erdol, revealed this week that at least one of the thousand rooms in the president’s extravagant $600 million palace in Ankara, the capital, will hold a special food analysis laboratory to test the president’s meals for radioactive materials, poison or certain types of bacteria that could be used in an assassination attempt.

‘Perverting the course of justice’ UK pub Christmas dinner death, chef and manager jailed

Della Callagher, 46, died after eating at the Railway Hotel in Hornchurch, east London in December 2012. Mehmet Kaya and Ann-Marie McSweeney were found guilty of perverting the course of justice and jailed at Snaresbrook Crown Court for 12 and 18 months respectively.

They had fabricated food safety records relating to the cooking of turkey meat.

Mitchells and Butlers (M&B), the chain which owned the pub, was fined £1.5m for placing unsafe food on the market.

The court heard that on Christmas Day 2012 the pub served lunch to 128 customers. Thirty-three of them suffered food poisoning.

But the turkeys prepared the day before were not cooled properly after cooking and not adequately reheated before being served to the guests.

Clostridium perfringens bacterium, a common cause of food poisoning, was later found in samples taken from the diners who fell ill.

The jury heard Kaya, 38, from Purfleet, Essex and McSweeney, 40, from Suttons Avenue, Hornchurch, retrospectively filled out due diligence logs before health inspectors could carry out an investigation.

Prosecutor Andrew Campbell-Tiech QC said it was “highly likely that other food-related records were fabricated.”

His Honour Judge Alastair Hammerton said the evidence revealed “systematic failings” in record keeping and that McSweeney was “in charge and in control of the cover-up.”

‘Blood in the chicken cats around food’ Not a country song but Turkish resort where 595 fell ill in 2009

A family holiday to celebrate a honeymoon and a 40th birthday was ruined after a father-of-three was hospitalised with severe gastric illness. Swannell family, from West Yorkshire, had booked a week’s stay at the First Choice Holiday Village resort in Sarigerme, Turkey, when Mark Swannell, 46, fell seriously ill a few days into the break with diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and lethargy.

Mr Swannell, a bus driver from Dewsbury, said: ‘I was in a really bad way and Nicola had no option but to get the hotel doctor to come to our room as I felt like I was going to collapse. 

‘I was taken by wheelchair to the surgery, laid out on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to hospital – I couldn’t believe this was happening on our special family holiday.”

Back in 2009, an outbreak of gastric illness at the same resort led to £1.7m paid out in compensation, with 595 people affected by illness. 

Mr Swannell said that some of the food he was served at the hotel had been undercooked. On one occasion, he claims that he cut in to some chicken and noticed blood in the middle. Some food was also said not have to have been served at the correct temperature.

The family also claim that food was left uncovered for prolonged periods of time and appeared as though it had been served more than once. 

They said that cutlery, crockery and table linen used in the restaurant was not up to standard, while they saw cats in the public areas of the hotel and in the restaurant.

Mr Swannell had travelled to the Turkish resort on October 23, 2014 with his wife Nicola and their children Lewis, 13, Kyle, 13 and Keira, seven.

In the 2009 outbreak, over 400 holidaymakers within the group action suffered gastric illness with over 100 men, women and children suffering from infections including Salmonella, Cryptosporidium, Campylobacter and E-Coli. 

A spokesperson for TUI, who manage the First Choice and Thomson brands, told MailOnline Travel: ‘We are sorry to hear of the Swannell’s experience at the Holiday Village Turkey in October.

‘First Choice closely audits all resorts to which we operate to ensure that health, hygiene and comfort levels are maintained in line with industry standards.

‘As this case is now subject to legal proceedings it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.’

Do pop-up thermometers work? I don’t trust them

The Brits, known for there aversion of food thermometers – make mine steaming hot – have decide to promote a new Pop Up® disposable cooking thermometer timer device for use with all the turkeys being sold over the counter this year.

chicken.cook.thermometerThe timers are designed  to release a red button exactly when the bird has reached its optimum level of doneness at the thickest part of the meat, thus eliminating the annual ‘turkey guesswork’ and assuring a perfectly cooked and safe product.

I use a tip—sensitive digital thermometer because nothing can be more idiot-proof.

There was some group in Guelph (that’s in Ontario, Canada) that provided such advice 11 years ago,

But university beurotypes are forced to go after the easy dollar and cleaned me out for about $750K.

Whatever, I got to meet and marry Amy.

And then Kansas State University cleaned me out for $200K because, as a full professor, I got fired for bad attendance.

But back to the basics: do pop-up thermometers work?

Friend of the, Don Schaffner, provided a relevant reference:

Temperature histories at critical points and recommended cooking time for whole turkeys baked in a conventional oven

H.C. Chang, J.A. Carpenter, and R.T. Toledo

Time-temperature histories and cooking times were determined for turkeys bake at162.8°Cf rom4.44°Ct to an endpoint of82.2°C in the thigh joint or breast.Tur- keys(128)  infiveweightclassesfrom5.9to10.8kg(0.9kgincrements)were equallydividedintofresh,frozen,stuffed,unstuffed,and cooked shielded orunsheilded groups. The slowest heating point was either the wing joint or stuff- inggeometriccenter.Cooking time for unsheilded turkeys was 155min plus11 min/kg,unstuffed,and200minplus8.8min/kg,stuffed.

amy.thermometerMedian cooking loss was 23%.Shielding of breasts prolonged cooking time.The cooking end point of f82.2°C in the thigh joint provided adequate lethality against Salmonella in the slowest heating points of both stuffed and unstuffedbirds.


JOURNAL OF FOOD SCIENCE—Volume 63, No. 2, 1998