How Safe is Your Thanksgiving Turkey Stuffing?
By Christina Elston

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  • To Stuff, or Not to Stuff?

    While your mouth is watering for that traditional Thanksgiving turkey, keep in mind that the stuffing inside the bird could harbor dangerous E.coli or salmonella bacteria and cause food-borne illness.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that stuffing inside the turkey is more likely to be undercooked, allowing this harmful bacteria to survive. Food-borne illnesses, which are more dangerous to children than to adults, cause approximately 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths each year, according to the national Centers for Disease Control.

    It’s safer to cook stuffing separately in a casserole dish. However, if you do stuff your bird:

    • Use a meat thermometer to check both the internal temperature of the stuffing, and the temperature of the meat in the innermost part of the thigh. Meat should reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit and stuffing should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

    • After cooking, remove the stuffing from inside the turkey within 20 minutes.

    • Refrigerate leftover meat and stuffing as soon as possible, and use it within two days.

    For more information, contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-674-6854 or check online at

    Related reading:

    Keeping Your Kitchen – and Your Family – Food-Safe

    More Health Notes

    Christina Elston is a freelance health writer and editor and the author of two books on children’s health.