Keeping Food Safe at Home
The consumer's role in keeping food safe is a crucial one because it is the last safety check on the road from farm to table. Practicing safe food preparation practices begins as early as shopping in the market, and extends all the way to placing food on the plate. You can help keep your family's food safe by using the following precautions.
- Buy perishables at the end of your shopping trip. This keeps them at optimum temperature for as long as possible.
- Buy meat, chicken and seafood LAST. These items are the most important to keep cooler, longer.
- Put meat, poultry and seafood in plastic bags to prevent leaking. The juice that can leak from these packages may have millions of bacteria in it.
- Do not sample fruits and vegetables at the store without washing it first.
- Keep meats, poultry and seafood away from produce in the shopping cart, on the supermarket conveyor belt, and in the shopping bag.
Bacteria can spread to every surface that it comes into contact with. Frequent washing is important in preventing bacteria from spreading.
- Wash hands with hot, soapy water for 15-30 seconds before handling food.
- Wash hands with hot, soapy water for 15-30 seconds after using the bathroom, changing diapers smoking, and handling pets.
- Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing food items, AND in-between food items. This helps prevent the bacteria on one food item from contaminating the other food items.
- Use plastic, glass or other non-porous cutting boards. Porous materials like wood provide a hiding place for bacteria. Once the bacteria are established in the pores, it's almost impossible to get them out. They can then go on to contaminate subsequent food items.
- Cutting boards should be washed in hot soapy water after each use.
- Consider using disposable paper towels to clean up the kitchen. If you use cloth towels, wash these often in hot water in the washing machine.
- Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in your grocery-shopping cart and in your refrigerator.
- If possible, use a different cutting board for raw meat products. Be sure this cutting board is not made of wood.
- Always wash hands, cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water after they come into contact with raw meat, poultry or seafood.
- Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw or partially cooked meat, seafood or poultry.
- Cooking is the most reliable way to kill bacteria on food items. However, food must be cooked long enough and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria.
- Use a clean thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods. Make sure meat, poultry, casseroles and other foods are cooked to the proper temperature.
|Food||Cook to (°F)|
|Ground beef, pork, veal and lamb||160|
|Ground turkey, chicken||165|
|Fresh beef, lamb, veal||160|
|Whole chicken and turkey||180|
|Poultry breasts, roast||170|
|Poultry thighs, wings||180|
|Stuffing (cooked alone or in the bird)||165|
|Fresh ham (raw)||160|
|Pre-cooked ham (to reheat)||140|
|Eggs||Cook until yolk and white are firm|
|Leftovers and casseroles||165|
If a thermometer is not available, cook red meat (roasts, steaks, ground beef, etc.) until the pink color is gone. Cook chicken until the juices run clear.
- When cooking in the microwave oven, limit cold spots by covering food while cooking, stirring and rotating for even cooking. Cold spots are hazardous to food safety because they weren't heated to an adequate temperature to kill bacteria.
- Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when re-heating.
Food must be refrigerated promptly, both raw food and leftovers, because cold temperatures help to prevent bacteria from growing. Your refrigerator should be set at 40°F and the freezer should be set at 0°F. These temperatures should be checked occasionally with an appliance thermometer.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within 2 hours or sooner.
- NEVER defrost food at room temperature. As the food defrosts at room temperature, it reaches a temperature where harmful bacteria can grow. Defrost in the refrigerator, the microwave, or under cold, running water. Marinate foods in the refrigerator.
- Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow dishes for quick cooling in the refrigerator.
- Don't pack the refrigerator full. Cool air must be allowed to circulate if it is to keep the food cold.
Food contamination can occur at any stage during food production, shipping, storage and preparation. Following these food safety guidelines can help to minimize the risk of introducing contamination during home preparation.