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Kitchen Dangers Lurk on Thanksgiving

You may not have to worry about the canned pumpkin, yams or cranberry sauce, but the turkey could become a potent weapon if you’re not careful, food safety experts say.

The National Health and Examination Survey, an ongoing study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that consuming canned foods leads to elevated levels of BPA. But Faith Christzer, assistant professor of Food Science and Technology and food safety extension specialist at the University of Tennessee, said you have more to fear from the turkey than from any kind of canned food risk.

“The media has raised concerns about BPA – bisphenol A – in recent years,” because of suspected effects on pregnancy and development, she said in a telephone interview with The Christian Post. “But BPA is actually fairly safe. In fact, the FDA has not even established a tolerated level of BPAs because they pose such little hazard. However, there are other food safety concerns on Thanksgiving.”

The new study by the Allen Foundation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that eating canned food daily can raise the levels of the BPA in a person's urine more than previously suspected.

Bisphenol-A is used in manufacturing polycarbonates, found in plastics, and epoxy resin, which is used to line cans to prevent corrosion, Christzer told CP. The compound aids in heat stability.

People who ate a serving of canned soup every day for five days had BPA levels of 20.8 micrograms per liter of urine, whereas people who instead ate fresh soup had levels of 1.1 micrograms per liter, according to the study, Fox News reported. That was 1,221 percent more than the amount found in the people who were given freshly cooked soup instead.

“To see an increase in this magnitude was quite surprising," said study leader Karin Michels, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. The average amount of BPA found in most people’s urine is around 1 or 2 micrograms per liter.

The study is published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Some studies have shown elevated BPA levels were linked with higher risks of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and abnormal concentrations of certain liver enzymes. Studies also have shown that high levels of BPA during pregnancy may cause health problems in the child, Christzer said, but “there needs to be further research.”

“We have been consuming canned food for more than 100 years. It is one of the safest ways we’ve found to preserve. Your turkey poses more of a risk than any canned foods you may use [on Thanksgiving],” she cautioned.

“One of the biggest concerns is reducing the incidences of cross contamination,” she said. “Most people put their frozen turkeys on the counter – never leave food to thaw on the counter where it can develop bacteria.”

“When you’re storing [the raw turkey] keep it at the lowest level in the refrigerator so it doesn’t drip onto any other foods,” she added.

Christzer had some other turkey tips. “If you use a cutting board and knife with the raw turkey, do not let it touch anything else. And cook your turkey to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees,” she said. “I think a lot of people just eyeball it.”

“We also suggest you cook the stuffing separate from the bird, because it’s hard to get that internal temp up,” she said.

“Food-borne illness is like winning the bad luck lottery – even though you may have done something wrong 200 times (when handling food) without getting sick, the 201st you may make everyone sick,” Christzer said.

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