Don’t Eat Dumpster Turkeys, Warn Police

Maine police have a warning for the public: Don’t eat that turkey unless you know where it came from, because it may have pulled from a dumpster.

An undisclosed number of frozen turkeys wound up in the dumpster behind a Hannaford supermarket in Falmouth, Maine. Someone grabbed the turkeys from the dumpster, and police fear they may try to sell the birds.

The turkeys were discarded after a mechanical failure allowed them to thaw. Partially thawed frozen turkey is unfit for human consumption, because the outer, thawed layers become a haven for bacteria. Add some time in the dumpster, and these birds could be a serious danger to anyone who eats them.

If you are unsure of the provenance of your turkey, throw it out and get one from the supermarket. Any illnesses that result from eating dumpster turkeys will be your responsibility, as the law presumes a reasonable standard of conduct in liability cases; in short, if you buy an illicit turkey there is no protection, because you should have known better.

If a host knowingly serves you a dumpster turkey, you may be able to take action against them. At $2 to $3 a pound, it’s not worth the thousands of dollars in potential liability to scrimp on the featured dish.

Take Care with Legitimate Turkeys too

Frozen turkey is bacteria free, but as it thaws the risks of contamination rise. The United States Department of Agriculture offers these tips for safe turkey thawing:

  • Keep frozen turkey frozen unless you are thawing in the refrigerator prior to cooking. Don’t leave frozen turkeys on the back porch, in the garage or in your car, even if you think it’s cold enough outside.
  • For refrigerator thawing, allow 24 hours for each 4 pounds of turkey, which is 3 to 4 days for the average-sized bird. Put the turkey in a bowl or container to trap any juices that leak during thawing.
  • For cold water thawing, allow 30 minutes per pound, which is 6 to 10 hours for an average turkey.

Once the turkey starts to thaw, it is important to keep it cold. Bacteria shows up when the temperature reaches 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember: The outer part of the turkey will hit the danger zone long before the core thaws, which makes it essential to keep the bird in a cold environment.

Negligent handling of food can open the door to liability, and you’ll have a very unhappy Thanksgiving if any of your guests get sick, so take the time to handle your turkey properly.

All of us at Sheff Law wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Should you have questions about food liability, workplace accidents or personal injury, we’re here to help. Call us at 1-888-423-4477 or contact us online for a free consultation. There is no fee for our services unless you receive a settlement or verdict.

Close up of a the head of a white turkey

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