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Food Safety Feature Articles


Properly thawing food helps decrease illnesses

Tammy Roberts, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever are all symptoms of foodborne illness, which people can get from eating food that has not been properly thawed. Symptoms can be seen within 30 minutes and up to two weeks after eating contaminated food. It is especially important to prevent foodborne illness in people who are elderly, pregnant, very young or already sick.


There are four ways to thaw food properly:


  1. In the refrigerator: The temperature should be at or less than 41 degrees Fahrenheit and this method should be used when a large piece of meat is going to be used in a few days. A large turkey can take two to four days to thaw in the refrigerator, so it is important to plan ahead.

  3. Under running water: This must take place in a clean sink, letting the water drain. The water should be cold — at or less than 70 degrees F. A large piece of meat or turkey also can be thawed using the sink method. Place cold water in the sink (ice can be added to make the water very cold) and place the meat in its wrapper in the water. Turn the meat and change the water every 30 minutes to thaw more quickly.

  5. While cooking: It is possible to thaw food while cooking, but it is important to use a thermometer and check the internal temperature of the meat to ensure it is cooked properly.

  7. In the microwave: This is ideal with smaller pieces of meat — large meats, like whole turkeys and chicken may not thaw completely. Once food is thawed in the microwave, it needs to be cooked immediately for food safety.


Proper thawing is necessary to reduce or slow the microorganism growth — microorganisms cause food borne illnesses. It is important to never thaw food at room temperature.


For more information on nutrition issues, contact your local University of Missouri Extension office, go online to or contact Tammy Roberts at 417-682-3579.


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Last update: Tuesday, January 11, 2011