Stand by Your Pan – And Other Thanksgiving Safety Tips

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is alerting consumers that the threat of fires in the kitchen triples on Thanksgiving Day. From 2009 through 2011, there was an average of about 1,300 cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day. This is more than three times the average daily rate from 2009 through 2011 of about 400 cooking fires a day.  
 
 “As fire safety experts have said for years, ‘Stand by your pan!’ ” said former CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum. “If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, stay in the kitchen. Not following this advice can be a recipe for disaster on Thanksgiving and throughout the year.”
 
When it comes to fires in the home, cooking fires are No. 1.  They accounted for nearly 150,000 fires (more than 40 percent of all annual unintentional residential fires) each year from 2009 through 2011.  Unattended cooking is the top cause of cooking fires. Cooking fires also caused the most home fire-related injuries, with an estimated annual average of nearly 27 percent, or 3,450 injuries each year.
 
Overall, CPSC estimates an average of 362,300 unintentional residential fires, 2,260 deaths, 12,820 injuries and nearly $7 billion in property damage attended by the fire service occurring each year between 2009 and 2011.  

Stay Safe in the Kitchen

To stay safe in the kitchen, avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves near ranges or ovens, watch children closely so they don’t come into contact with cooking food or hot stovetops, turn pan handles toward the back of the stove to prevent kids and others from spilling a pan’s scalding contents onto themselves.  
 
 In the event of a fire, call 911. Cover a pan with a lid to smother the flames. Never pour water or flour on a fire. That can make it worse. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

Be Extra Cautious With Fryers

Turkey fryer fires can be explosive and result in serious burns. Only use a turkey fryer outside and away from your home. Never use it in a garage or on a porch. Don’t overfill the oil or leave the turkey fryer unattended.
 
Since 2003, there have been more than 125 turkey fryer-related fires, burns, explosions, smoke inhalations or laceration incidents reported to CPSC staff.  There were 55 injuries among these incidents, but none were fatal.  For the incidents reporting a dollar value for the property loss, the total loss reported was around $6 million.  Additional incidents involving turkey fryers may have occurred that were not reported to CPSC.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists these five dangers of deep frying a turkey:
  • Turkey fryers can easily tip over, spilling hot cooking oil over a large area.
  • An overfilled cooking pot will cause cooking oil to spill when the turkey is put in, and a partially frozen turkey will cause cooking oil to splatter when put in the pot.
  • Even a small amount of cooking oil spilling on a hot burner can cause a large fire.
  • Without thermostat controls, deep fryers can overheat oil to the point of starting a fire.
  • The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles can get dangerously hot.

Avoid Food Poisoning

 Food poisoning can be another holiday hazard. “Preventing food poisoning also should be an important part of your Thanksgiving festivities,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Brian Ronholm.  “To ensure your bountiful meal is a success, follow the four key food safety steps – Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.  Clean utensils and wash your hands before preparing foods, separate raw meats from other foods to avoid cross-contamination, cook your turkey to the right temperature of 165 degrees, and chill the leftovers within an hour so that you can have tasty meals and snacks for the rest of the weekend.”
 
To keep food poisoning from ruining your Thanksgiving, follow these safety tips from the USDA. Wash hands, surfaces, and cooking utensils, but do not wash a turkey — this spreads bacteria onto sinks and countertops. Cooking your Thanksgiving turkey to 165 degrees Fahrenheit is the only way to kill harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
 
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