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The key to the whole meal is picking the turkey. A past government study suggests that that isn't a simple task. “The USDA released data on turkey contamination that showed 90% of the turkeys tested in 1996 and 1997 were contaminated with Campylobacter and 18% were contaminated with Salmonella,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of Food Safety for CSPI. “This CSPI hoped to document positive changes in turkey safety due to the new mandatory hazard control systems (called HACCP) now used in most turkey plants. Instead, what we found was shocking.”

Tests conducted by CSPI on 50 turkeys from five cities found:

A total of 16% of all turkeys tested were contaminated with Campylobacter.
Fresh turkeys in the sample were significantly more likely than the frozen turkeys to be contaminated.
Turkeys from Los Angeles were more contaminated than turkeys from Washington, DC, New York, Chicago, and Miami.
None of the turkeys tested were contaminated with Salmonella.

“Consumers can improve their odds of avoiding food poisoning by washing their hands frequently, using safe food-handling practices, such as washing preparation counters thoroughly with hot soapy water before and after handling their turkey, and by cooking the turkey to 180°,” concluded DeWaal. For more safety tips check out suggestions for a safe Thanksgiving

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