The Roasted Bird Gets A Temperature Reprieve

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which for decades had recommended that poultry be cooked to an internal temperature of 180 degrees for safe eating, has reevaluated that assessment.

Earlier this month, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service established 165 degrees as the single safe minimum internal temperature to kill food-borne pathogens and viruses in poultry.

The months of commissioned study and testing by the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods were not prompted by reports of overcooked white meat but by reported outbreaks of salmonella bacteria that were traced to partially cooked, frozen poultry products.

At 165 degrees, salmonella, campylobacter and avian flu virus were destroyed in cooked poultry. USDA meat and poultry hotline manager Diane Van said last week that 180 degrees had been the poultry cooking temperature standard since at least the early 1980s.

"This is terrific news," said grilling expert and cookbook author Cheryl Jamison, when informed of the change. "We can enjoy chicken again without ending up with dried-out white meat." Jamison and her husband (and co-author) Bill have long advised temperatures of 165 to 170 degrees -- even though their cooking class students are always wary about salmonella.

"I personally never followed that [USDA] advice," Jamison said.

Apparently the change also will not affect the pop-up thermometers found in the breast meat of roaster chickens and turkeys. They were already set for the "best eating experience" as well as a safety standard of 170 degrees, according to Julie DeYoung at Perdue Farms.

For more information, go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov http://. -- Bonnie S. Benwick

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