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Home Food Safety Tips

What is Foodborne illness?

Foodborne illness, also known as "food poisoning", is any illness that results from eating contaminated food. Harmful bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning, but other causes include viruses, parasites, toxins and contaminants. One in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year. Most of them will recover without any lasting effects from their illness. For some, however, the effects can be devastating and even deadly.

Follow these four simple steps for safer food:

CLEAN: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often

  • Wash hands the right way—for 20 seconds with soap and running water. This should be done before and after handling food, after using the restroom, handling pets, and changing diapers.
  • Wash surfaces and utensils after each use.
  • Wash fruits and veggies—even if you plan to peel fruits and veggies, it’s important to wash them first because bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside as you cut or peel them.
  • Don’t wash meat, poultry, or eggs! Washing raw meat and poultry can actually help bacteria spread, because their juices may splash onto your sink and countertops.

SEPARATE: Don't Cross-contaminate

  • Even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.
  • Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce and for meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
  • Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods at the grocery and in your refrigerator.

COOK: Cook to Proper Temperatures

  • Check food with a thermometer; even if it looks cooked on the outside.
  • Cook meat/poultry completely—partial cooking ahead of time allows bacteria to survive and multiply – subsequent cooking may not destroy them.
  • Cook food to a safe internal temperature: 145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry.
  • Microwave food thoroughly (to 165 ˚F).
  • Keep food hot after cooking (at 140 ˚F or above).

CHILL: Refrigerate Promptly

  • Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness. Keep cold food cold!
  • Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours.
  • Never thaw or marinate foods on the counter. Bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature, thawing or marinating foods on the counter is one of the riskiest things you can do when preparing food for your family.

More Information

USDA Food Safety Website
Fight BAC Website (Partnership for Food Safety Education)
CDC Food Safety Website
Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill: Food Safety Tips
Food Safety for Parties and Large Groups
Food Safety By Types of Food