A big menu, gatherings of family and friends and the hustle and bustle of the holiday is a recipe for some misadventure. We analyzed data from government reports to find the most common Turkey Day troubles so you can take steps to avoid the worst.
Thanksgiving fire stats
Each year, Thanksgiving Day sees 2,400 building fires reported to local fire departments, according to a US Fire Administration report on Thanksgiving fires in residential buildings. That number amounts to 2.3 times more residential fires reported for the holiday than your average day.
Fortunately, Thanksgiving fire troubles don’t cause as much damage as other days, cutting the usual injuries, deaths and repair costs by over half. Most fires average $17,560 in damage, but a Thanksgiving fire whittles that down to $7,800.
The reason for the Thanksgiving fire season
Slow-roasted turkey with all the fixings might warm your kitchen with holiday cheer — or flames, since cooking is the top cause of Thanksgiving fires. Cooking causes 77% of fires that happen on the holiday, compared to 50% on other days.
Should I get extra insurance for Thanksgiving Day?
Homeowners insurance is the most common way of insuring against cooking fire damage, guest injuries or any other accidents at home. You’ll pay the same home insurance deductible regardless of the cost of damage. If you’re renting and don’t have insurance, you might want a renters policy for more than just Turkey Day mishaps.
Looking to save Thanksgiving dinner instead? The new Whole Foods turkey insurance could pay for another bird if a fire blackens yours. That is, if you meet the criteria, like buying the store’s organic or classic whole turkey and sending a photo of your turkey blunder.
Since the offer’s limited to 1,000 claims, you might consider this an extra perk if you already want a Whole Foods turkey or the sale price is comparable to your usual store. But you might want a backup plan to feed your guests while you wait for your claim to be processed.
Thanksgiving poisoning stats
Since eating is Thanksgiving’s main event, it’s no surprise that food poisoning poses problems for the holiday. Avoid these common types of poisoning by following good food prep hygiene.
Bacteria-related food poisoning
Clostridium perfringens causes nearly 1 million food poisoning cases each year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Not familiar with C. perfringens? It’s the second most common cause of bacteria-related food poisoning.
What’s more, C. perfringens outbreaks happen most often in November and December, says the CDC in its “Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday Turkey” report.
Salmonella and turkey
Salmonella is also a Thanksgiving threat, with raw turkey products causing 356 illnesses in 42 states from 2017 to 2019. The cases were reported as an outbreak in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for November 22, 2019.
How to have a safe Thanksgiving
To make sure turkey fires or food poisoning won’t dampen your holiday, keep these Thanksgiving safety tips in mind:
- Thaw ahead of time. Buy and thaw your turkey several days ahead in the refrigerator. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests thawing 24 hours per four to five pounds of meat, according to its “Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting Turkey.” Or buy a fresh and not frozen turkey instead and keep it in the fridge for a few days before the big day.
- Wash your hands and surfaces frequently. Wash your hands with plenty of soap after handling turkey as well as any surfaces the turkey touched or where juices ran. You can reserve a special grooved cutting board to keep counters clean.
- Cook your turkey to the right temperature. Don’t settle for less than the proper internal temperature for cooked turkey, which is 165 degrees, according to the USDA consumer guide. When you check your bird’s temperature, go for the middle of the breast to avoid hitting a bone.
- Watch your kitchen closely. Keep a lid on any fire outbreaks by staying close when anything’s cooking on the stove or in the oven.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy. Make sure you’re prepared if a kitchen fire does break out, with working smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher close by.
- Keep dangerous items out of reach. As you’re juggling your cooking schedule, put cooking items like knives, hot pots and lit candles where tiny hands or pets can’t reach.
- Supervise kids helping in the kitchen. Whether your independent toddler, preteen or teenager wants to lend a hand, keep tabs on the process and give appropriate jobs based on their age. Toddlers could help with pouring and stirring, while teens might handle chopping, peeling potatoes or making dessert.
While many celebrators spend Thanksgiving Day indoors cooking and catching up with loved ones, the day still poses holiday hazards. To keep everyone safe from kitchen fires or food poisoning, take safety precautions and keep home or renters insurance for any mishaps.
To bring you trustworthy, quality Thanksgiving safety stats, we gathered and analyzed data and reports from government agencies. Our sources:
- “Burden of Foodborne Illness: Overview” last reviewed on November 5, 2018 by the CDC, accessed on November 4, 2020
- “Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday Turkey” last reviewed on November 4, 2019 by the CDC, accessed on November 4, 2020
- “Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet)” by the Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC), accessed on November 4, 2020
- “Foods That Can Cause Food Poisoning” last reviewed on October 1, 2020 by the CDC, accessed on November 4, 2020
- “Let’s Talk Turkey—A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey” last modified on September 28, 2015 by the US Department of Agriculture, accessed on November 18, 2020
- “Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Raw Turkey Products — United States, 2017–2019” published on November 22, 2019 by the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, accessed on November 18, 2020
- “Prevent Illness from C. perfringens” last reviewed on December 18, 2019 by the CDC, accessed on November 4, 2020
- “Thanksgiving fires in residential buildings (2014-2016)” by the U.S. Fire Administration, accessed on November 4, 2020
- “Thanksgiving Food Safety Tips” last reviewed on December 3, 2019 by the CDC, accessed on November 4, 2020