University of Maine Cooperative Extension on Call to Answer Holiday Food-Safety Questions

For consumers throughout the state with questions about safe food handling and preparation, leftovers or even recipes and nutrition as the holidays approach, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension team is only a phone call away for research-based answers.

Six UMaine Extension food safety and nutrition specialists make up the team, which can be reached by calling the nearest county UMaine Extension office or dialing 1-800-287-0274, a statewide toll-free number. Many questions also can be answered online in a UMaine Extension publication. Specialists in UMaine Extension county offices also can answer most questions, says UMaine Extension statewide food-safety specialist Jason Bolton. Consumers can expect to receive a return call with answers within a few hours.

Questions typically range from how to thaw a frozen turkey when time is short to handling leftovers safely to whether an older UMaine Extension recipe is still safe and valid. Bolton says the latter is a good question, because changing ingredient ratios in a recipe can make food unsafe to can. Canning procedures are updated every year when results from new food preservation research are available, he says.

Bolton recommends a food thermometer be included among essential kitchen utensils to be sure meat is cooked thoroughly. Poultry must be cooked at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as a rule.

“With large gatherings, it’s pretty important not to have everyone make a trip to the hospital,” he says, adding improper preparation can result in a variety of food-borne illnesses. “Once again, if in doubt, throw it out. If the turkey isn’t prepared properly, then the whole family can get sick.”

Kate Yerxa, the UMaine Extension statewide educator for nutrition and physical activity, says the call team also can address questions about nutrition and serving the recommended food categories from the new U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “My Plate” chart. Thanksgiving is typically a very healthy meal because of its heavy use of vegetables, and turkey is a lean protein food, she says.

The Cooperative Extension website has a complete list of county offices and contact information.

A UMaine Extension publication, “Helpful Hints on Handling Turkeys for Thanksgiving” includes tips for buying, thawing, stuffing, cooking and serving turkeys.

Bolton and UMaine Extension food science specialist Beth Calder expand in a video on some of those tips and also discuss how to deal with holding food and leftovers.

Other UMaine Extension food safety publications include “Basic for Handling Food Safely,” and “General Food Safety Tips for Preparing Food“.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756