For Consumers

Food Safety at Home

woman cutting vegetables

4 Basic Steps for Food Safety

Each year millions of people get sick from food illnesses which can cause you to feel like you have the flu. Food illnesses can also cause serious health problems, even death. Follow these four steps to help keep you and your family safe.
1. Clean

Always wash your food, hands, counters and cooking tools.

  • Wash hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Do this before and after touching food.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, forks, spoons, knives and counter tops with hot soapy water. Do this after working with each food item.
  • Rinse fruits and veggies.
  • Clean the lids on canned goods before opening.
2. Separate (Keep Apart)

Keep raw foods to themselves. Germs can spread from one food to another.

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from other foods.
  • Do this in your shopping cart, bags, and fridge.
  • Do not reuse marinades used on raw foods unless you bring them to a boil first.
  • Use a special cutting board or plate for raw foods only.
3. Cook

Foods need to get hot and stay hot. Heat kills germs.

  • Cook to safe temperatures:
    • Beef, Pork, Lamb 145 °F
    • Fish 145 °F
    • Ground Beef, Pork, Lamb 160 °F
    • Turkey, Chicken, Duck 165 °F
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure that food is done. You can’t always tell by looking.
4. Chill

Put food in the fridge right away.

  • 2-Hour Rule: Put foods in the fridge or freezer within 2 hours after cooking or buying from the store. Do this within 1 hour if it is 90 degrees or hotter outside.
  • Never thaw food by simply taking it out of the fridge.
  • Thaw food:
    • In the fridge
    • Under cold water
    • In the microwave
  • Marinate foods in the fridge.

Think you have a food illness?

Call your doctor and get medical care right away if you think you have a food illness. Save the food package, can or carton. Then report the problem. Call USDA at 1-888-674-6854 if you think the illness was caused by meat, poultry or eggs. Call FDA at 1-866-300-4374 for all other foods.

Call your local health department if you think you got sick from food you ate in a restaurant or another food seller.

Anyone can get sick from eating spoiled food. Some people are more likely to get sick from food illnesses.

  • Pregnant women
  • Older Adults
  • People with certain health conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and kidney disease

Some foods are more risky for these people. Talk to your doctor or other health provider about which foods are safe for you to eat.

Page Last Updated: 12/02/2014
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