Tips on Preventing Foodborne Illness

Food can be a source of great pleasure, but it also can be dangerous if it is not handled and prepared correctly.
Tips on Preventing Foodborne Illness - Articles

Updated: August 29, 2017

Tips on Preventing Foodborne Illness

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Improper kitchen practices can lead to the spread of bacteria and other disease-causing organisms. Use the recommendations in this publication to ensure that your kitchen is clean and the food you serve is safe.

Storage Strategies

  • Maintain refrigerator temperature at 40°F or lower
  • Cover, label, and date foods
  • Avoid refrigerator over load
  • Keep frozen foods frozen solid

Separate Safely

  • Use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables
  • Keep raw meats separate from other foods
  • Store foods away from cleaning supplies
  • Wash and sanitize counter tops and sinks
  • Use a clean plate for cooked meats
  • Thaw raw meat on a tray in the bottom of the refrigerator

Wash Hands Often

How?

  • Use soap and warm, running water
  • Scrub for 20 seconds
  • Rinse
  • Dry with a paper towel

When?

  • Before preparing or eating food
  • After handling raw food
  • After using the bathroom or changing diapers
  • After playing with pets and animals

Clean

  • Wash surfaces and utensils after each use
  • Clean up spills as you go, especially drippings from raw meat and poultry

Cook Correctly

  • Use a clean thermometer to ensure proper cooking temperature is reached
  • When cooking food in the microwave, cover, stir, and rotate while cooking, let stand 2 minutes afterward, and then check the temperature in at least 2 locations to ensure a temperature of 165°F or higher

Cook foods to the following recommended temperatures:

  • Poultry (chicken, turkey) - 165°F
  • Ground poultry - 165°F
  • Ground beef - 160°F
  • Fish, whole cuts of beef, pork, or lamb - 145°F

Cooling Counts

  • Set your refrigerator at 40°F or below and your freezer at 0°F or lower
  • Remember the "2-hour rule"--refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food, and leftovers within 2 hours
  • Place left overs in shallow containers (2 to 3 inches deep) for quick cooling in the refrigerator
  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator
  • Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running tap water, or in the microwave. Never defrost food on the kitchen counter

Summary

Following four simple steps - Clean, separate, cook and chill - can help protect your family from food poisoning at home. Remember to purchase, store, and prepare food "by the numbers." Always keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, and use food thermometers such as the ones shown below to verify that your and your family's food is safe. You also should wash hands often and avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw and cooked foods separate.