Food Safety

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Food-borne Bacteria (BAC) could make you and those you care about sick. BAC is sneaky because you can’t see, smell, or feel it.

But you have the power to Fight BAC!®. Food-borne illness can strike anyone. Some people are at a higher risk for developing food-borne illness, including pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

For these people, the following four simple steps are critically important:

1. Clean

Wash hands and surfaces often. Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food.

To Fight BAC!®, always:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
  • Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
  • Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.

2. Separate

Don’t cross-contaminate. Cross-contamination is how bacteria can be spread. When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods. Always start  with a clean scene—wash hands with warm water and soap, and wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops and utensils with hot water and soap.

  • Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator.
  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.

3. Cook

Cook to safe temperatures. Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature, as measured by a food thermometer, to kill the harmful bacteria that cause illness.

Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures Chart

Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures
as measured with a food thermometer
Beef, pork, veal, and lamb (roast, steaks, and chops) 145°F with a 3-minute “rest time” after removal from the heat source
Ground Meats 160°F
Poultry (whole, parts, or ground) 165°F
Eggs and egg dishes 160°F

Cook eggs until both the yolk and the while are firm.

Scrambled eggs should not be runny.

Leftovers and casseroles 165°F
Guidelines for Seafood
Fin Fish 145°F
Shrimp, Lobster, Crabs Flesh pearly and opaque
Clams, Oysters and Mussels Shells open during cooking
Scallops Milky white, opaque, and firm
  • Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods. Make sure that meat, poultry, egg dishes, casseroles and other foods are cooked to the internal temperature shown in the See the Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures Chart
  • Cook ground meat or ground poultry until it reaches a safe internal temperature. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness.
  • Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. Only use recipes in which eggs are cooked or heated thoroughly.
  • When cooking in a microwave oven, cover food, stir ½ way through, and rotate for even cooking. Food is done when it reaches a safe internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Bring sauces, soups and gravy to boil when reheating.

4. Chill

Refrigerate promptly. Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Do not over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe. 

Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the temperature is consistently 40°F or below. The freezer temperature should be 0°F or below.

  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs and other perishable foods (foods that can easily spoil) as soon as you get them home from the store.
  • Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is above 90°F).
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
  • Always thaw meat on the bottom shelf in an opened tupperware container so juices don’t drip into other foods or other parts of the refrigerator 
  • Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
  • Use or discard refrigerated food on a regular basis. 
  • Use this Cold Food Storage Chart to know how long to safely store foods in the refrigerator or freezer.

Choking Prevention

Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables are available to 9-11 month old infants on the WIC program in place of baby food. WIC families can choose to receive the maximum amount of baby food or combine baby food and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. It is important for the infants caregiver to be knowledgeable about choking risks and food safety when preparing table food for their infant.


  • Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline:  1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854)
  • FDA (Food & Drug Administration) Food Information Line:  1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366)
  • For more Food Safety Information:

This post was last updated on March 30th, 2021 at 4:29 PM

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