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Food Safety Tips

Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage are essential to avoiding food borne illness. You can't see, smell, or taste bacteria which may be on any food. Follow these food safety guidelines from the USDA, the FDA, and the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association to keep most known pathogens away (though not, for example, the agent that causes Mad Cow Disease).

Safe Shopping
Buy cold food last; get it home fast.
  • Never choose packages which are torn or leaking.
  • Don't buy foods past "sell-by" or expiration dates.
  • Put raw meat and poultry into a plastic bag so meat juices won't cross-contaminate cooked foods or those eaten raw, such as vegetables or fruit.
  • Place refrigerated or frozen items in the shopping cart last, right before heading for the checkout counter.
  • When loading the car, keep perishable items inside the air-conditioned car—not in the trunk.
  • Drive immediately home from the grocery. If you live farther away than 30 minutes, bring a cooler with ice from home; place perishables in it.

Safe Storage of Foods
Keep it safe; refrigerate.
  • Unload perishable foods from the car first and immediately refrigerate them.
  • Place securely wrapped packages of raw meat, poultry, or fish in the meat drawer or coldest section of your refrigerator.
  • Check the temperature of your unit with an appliance thermometer. To slow bacterial growth, the refrigerator should be at 40° F; the freezer, 0° F.
  • Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within 2 days; other beef, veal, lamb or pork, within 3 to 5 days.

Safe Food Preparation
Keep everything clean!
  • Hands should be washed thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
  • Wash hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry.
  • Sanitize cutting boards often in a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water. Wash kitchen towels and cloths often in hot water in washing machine.
  • Don't cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash hands, cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot, soapy water.
  • Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
  • Always wash fresh fruits and vegetables under cool running tap water before eating. This removes any lingering dirt while also removing or reducing any bacteria or other substances.
  • Certain hearty vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots. can be scrubbed with a produce brush if consumers plan to eat the fiber and nutrient-rich skin.
  • When preparing fruits and vegetables, cut away bruised or damaged areas.

Thaw Food Safely
    Refrigerator: Allow slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing juices do not drip on other foods.
    Cold Water: For faster thawing, place food in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge in cold tap water.
    Microwave: Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwave thawing.
Safe Cooking
Cook ground meats to 160° F; ground poultry to 165° F. Beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops may be cooked to 145° F; all cuts of fresh pork, 160° F. Whole poultry should reach 180° F in the thigh; breasts, 170° F.

Serving Food Safely
Never leave it out over 2 hours. (1 hour in temperature above 90 °F) Bacteria that cause food borne illness grow rapidly at room temperature.

Keep hot food hot! Cold food cold!
  • When serving food at a buffet, keep hot food over a heat source and keep cold food on ice. Keep platters of food refrigerated until time to serve or heat them.
  • Carry perishable picnic food in a cooler with a cold pack or ice. Set the cooler in the shade and open the lid as little as possible.

Handling Leftovers Safely
  • Divide foods into shallow containers for rapid cooling. Put food directly in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Cut turkey off the bone and refrigerate. Slice breast meat; legs and wings may be left whole.
  • Use cooked leftovers within 4 days.
  • Cut or cooked produce items. such as baked potatoes or vegetable casseroles, should never be left out or held at room temperature for an extended time period.

Re-freezing Food
Meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator may be re-frozen before OR after cooking. If thawed by other methods, cook before re-freezing.

Check out the Cold Storage Chart to find out how long different foods keep.

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