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That Thanksgiving Turkey Can Carry Dangerous Bacteria

Emergency room physicians report that the Thanksgiving holiday weekend brings an uptick in patients for a variety of reasons. A combination of overeating, overdrinking, more people on the roads and forced family togetherness can lead to health issues, injuries and domestic violence. One emergency doctor notes that the influx starts "when the dinner period is over."

Food poisoning sends many people to the nearest hospital in the hours and days after Thanksgiving dinner. While food poisoning can sometimes just make for a highly unpleasant few days, it can have more serious consequences and shouldn't be taken lightly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that food-borne illnesses send about 128,000 people to the hospital on an annual basis and result in some 3,000 fatalities.

Turkey, the staple of many Thanksgiving dinners, can be the source of this food-borne illnesses for more than one reason. Turkey and turkey products have been recalled for containing salmonella and listeria. Even if the meat was not contaminated when it was bacteria, if it's not cooked properly, these types of bacteria can also form.

Since many people only cook a full turkey once or twice a year, they may not realize that they are undercooking it. Turkey that's left out too long and not refrigerated soon enough can also become contaminated. If everyone's sitting around the table visiting for hours after the meal and the leftovers aren't refrigerated in a timely manner, those turkey sandwiches the next day may contain unwanted bacteria.

People who already have weakened immune systems, senior citizens and pregnant women and their babies are particularly at risk for serious consequences if they ingest food contaminated with bacteria.

If you or someone you love acquire a food-borne illness, it can be difficult to know whether it's the result of meat that was already contaminated or if the culprit was improper cooking or storage. If a significant number of people report becoming ill after eating the same product within a similar timeframe, regulators will generally start an investigation. A Miami personal injury attorney who handles product liability cases can advise about what actions you can take.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, "Thanksgiving Dangers: From the Road to the Table," Kimberly Leonard, accessed Oct. 12, 2015

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