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  1. People at Risk of Foodborne Illness

Cooking - Food Safety for Moms to Be

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Lifelong Food Safety from Food Safety for Moms to Be Main Page

How to prevent foodborne illness in four easy steps: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

Clean | Separate | Cook | Chill

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Cook to Proper Temperatures

Heating foods to the right temperature for the proper amount of time will kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. Keep food and your family safe by practicing these TIPS.

The Danger Zone...

This refers to the range of temperatures at which bacteria can grow - usually between 40° and 140° F (4° and 60° C). For food safety, keep food below or above the "danger zone." Remember the 2-Hour Rule: Discard any perishables (foods that can spoil or become contaminated by bacteria if unrefrigerated) left out at room temperature for longer than two hours. When temperatures are above 90° F (32° C), discard food after one hour.

See the Apply the Heat (PDF | 20.3KB) chart for the "danger zone."

Meat and Poultry

  • Cook ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork to at least 160° F (71° C).
  • Cook all poultry to a minimum of 165° F (74° C).
  • Cook beef, pork, veal, and lamb roasts and chops to at least 145° F (63° C), with a 3 minute rest time.
Take Special Care with Ground Meat and Poultry
When meat and poultry are ground up, bacteria that might have been on the surface of the meat or poultry can end up inside. Make sure the meat is cooked all the way through, so harmful bacteria are killed. Always use a food thermometer to check.


  • Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm.
  • Cook fried eggs for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, 4 minutes in a covered pan.
  • Cook scrambled eggs until they're firm throughout.
  • Boil eggs for 7 minutes.
  • Don't use recipes in which eggs remain raw or only partially cooked.

Make these recipes safer by...

  • Adding the eggs to the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, then heating the mixture thoroughly.
  • Purchasing pasteurized eggs. These eggs can be found in some supermarkets and are labeled "pasteurized." Here are several types consumers can buy:
  • Fresh, pasteurized eggs in the shell (found in the refrigerator section).
    • Liquid, pasteurized egg products (found in the refrigerator section).
    • Frozen, pasteurized egg products (found in the frozen food section).
    • Powdered egg whites (found in the baking section).


Finfish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145° F (63° C). When a food thermometer is not available or appropriate, follow these tips to determine when seafood is done:

  • Cook fish until it's opaque (milky white) and flakes with a fork.
  • Cook shrimp, lobster, and scallops until they reach their appropriate color. The flesh of shrimp and lobster should be an opaque (milky white) color. Scallops should be opaque (milky white) and firm.
  • Cook clams, mussels, and oysters to the point at which their shells open. This means that they are done. Throw away the ones that didn't open.
  • Shucked clams and shucked oysters are fully cooked when they are opaque (milky white) and firm.


  • Reheat leftovers to 165° F (74° C).
  • Bring leftover sauces, soups, and gravies to a boil.
  • Don't leave food out at room temperature for more than two hours. On a hot day (90° F or higher), reduce this time to one hour.

Microwave Musts!
Microwaves often cook foods unevenly. This uneven cooking creates hot and cold spots in the food; and bacteria can survive in the cold spots. Microwaves also heat fats, sugars, and liquids more quickly than carbohydrates and proteins. For example, the gravy for your roast may be bubbling hot, but the meat may still be cold!

Tips to even out the Cooking

  • Add a little liquid to the food and cover it with plastic wrap (vented in a corner) or a glass cover. This creates steam, which kills harmful bacteria.
  • For even heating, turn the dish several times during cooking, and stir soups and stews periodically during reheating.
  • When done cooking, make sure the food is hot and steaming. Using a food thermometer, test the food in two or three different areas to check that it has reached a safe internal temperature.
  • Follow the recommended "let stand" times on food packages or in recipes. Food finishes cooking during the stand time.
  • After defrosting food in the microwave, cook the food immediately. Keep in mind that some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook while you're defrosting. However, the internal temperature of the food probably hasn't reached the temperature needed to kill harmful bacteria. It may have reached the "danger zone," the temperatures at which bacteria grow. That's why you should be sure to cook the food as soon as you're finished defrosting.
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