Food safety is making sure you handle, store and cook food properly to prevent food poisoning. It’s also knowing what to look for—and what to look out for—when you’re dining out. These key Habits to Have® will help you understand food safety and what you can do to lower your risk for foodborne illness.
These four rules are the basics of food safety. Wash your hands before handling food, clean your cooking surfaces often and always wash fresh fruit and produce before eating. Separate your raw meat and poultry from other foods in the grocery cart, in your refrigerator and when you’re preparing food. Cook meat to proper temperatures. Chill refrigerated food promptly and don’t leave leftovers out for more than two hours. Learn more at foodsafety.gov.
It’s the simplest rule of food safety, but one that begs repeating. That’s because many cases of food poisoning could be avoided if people simply washed their hands before preparing food. Wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after cooking, and always after using the bathroom, changing a diaper or touching your pet. Read Clean Hands for Healthy Living.
Food recalls and cases of food poisoning outbreaks are often in the news. By staying up to date on local and national food recalls you can learn what to avoid and what is safe. Learn about the latest recalls at foodsafety.gov and sign up for recall e-mails and alerts.
You can’t tell if meat is done just by looking at it or cutting it open. A meat thermometer can keep your family safe from harmful bacteria in raw and undercooked meat and poultry. Be sure you know the recommended cooking temperatures for meat and poultry. Then, follow these instructions to make sure you’re inserting the thermometer in the right place.
Buy an inexpensive appliance thermometer to make sure your refrigerator maintains a steady temperature at least 40° F. Your freezer should be at least 0° F.
Don’t be embarrassed about sending food back. If meat comes to you lukewarm or pink, send it back, and make sure the food is brought back on a clean plate. Don’t eat eggs that are runny--scrambled, fried and poached eggs should be firm. Be certain buffet food is properly warmed and chilled. Know that raw fish, like sushi, is more likely to harbor bacteria or parasites. Be sure to avoid dishes with raw fish or meat, as well as unpasteurized dairy products if you are pregnant. Check your local health department for health code violations and restaurant closures.
Harmful bacteria multiply more rapidly between 40 degrees to 140 degrees. Keep food out of the danger zone by keeping cold food cold and hot food hot. And follow these tips to make sure your buffet table is safe.
Some foods have expiration or "use by" dates and leftovers can spoil if left in the refrigerator too long. Be sure to label and date food you refrigerate or freeze. Use this storage-times chart to make sure your food is fresh and safe.
Call the doctor or seek immediate medical attention if you or a loved one has bloody stool or become confused, disoriented or severely dehydrated. See this list for signs of an emergency.
Food safety can seem overwhelming and frightening. While it’s true you can come into contact with contaminated food no matter how careful you are, you shouldn’t be afraid to eat out or enjoy favorite foods like hamburger or chicken. Being aware of food safety practices and food recalls, using common sense and knowing when to seek medical care can help keep you and your family safe.