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Always Check Your Steps To Protect Your Family From Food Poisoning
You do everything that is possible to protect yourself and your family. Caring
for your family also means following food safety precautions in your kitchen, just as
you do in other areas of your daily life. The food you serve your family can cause
food poisoning if it is not safely handled, cooked, or stored.
Food poisoning is a bigger risk than you think. Harmful bacteria like E. coli
O157:H7, Listeria, or Salmonella can contaminate your food and cause
illness, such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Foodborne illness can also
cause more serious consequences for those who are at risk, such as infants
and young children; pregnant women; older adults; and people with immune
systems weakened by cancer treatment, diabetes, AIDS, or bone marrow and
There are four simple food safety steps you can follow to keep your family safe
from food poisoning.
Keep It Clean
You wear safety belts in the car to avoid
injuries during a collision, and you teach
your children to look both ways before
crossing the street. Steps like these
protect your family from possible injury.
It's just as important to wash your hands
with soap and warm water for at least 20
seconds before and after handling food
and after using the bathroom, changing
diapers, or handling pets.
Clean cooking surfaces and utensils
with soap and hot water to remove
harmful bacteria. For extra protection,
you can also sanitize surfaces by adding
1 tablespoon of unscented liquid
chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water.
Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating or serving them raw.
Separate Your Food
Dirty shoes in the house? Most parents
try to keep them outside to prevent
spreading dirt and germs. A similar
precaution can be applied to food by
keeping raw meats and their juices
away from cooked foods to prevent
spreading harmful bacteria. Use
separate cutting boards and utensils,
or wash them between uses, when
preparing raw meat and vegetables.
Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria
spread between foods.
Remember to separate raw meat, poultry,
and seafood from fruits, vegetables, and
cooked foods when preparing meals and
storing them in the refrigerator.
Cook Food to the Right Temperature
Carbon monoxide detectors are
important for alerting you to dangerous
gas inside your home. You don't rely on
your senses of smell or sight to detect
this hazard. It is just as important to
use a food thermometer to make sure
your cooked food is free of dangerous
bacteria. You can't see, smell, or taste
bacteria that causes food poisoning,
but a food thermometer can indicate
when your food has been cooked to a
safe internal temperature. Just as you
would keep a fire extinguisher handy in
the kitchen, keep your food thermometer
handy and teach your children why
and how to use it.
Tips For Using a Food Thermometer:
- Insert the food thermometer into the
thickest part of the food, making sure
it doesn't touch bone, fat, or gristle.
For casseroles and other combination
dishes, place the food thermometer
in the center of the food. Egg dishes
and foods containing ground meat
and poultry should be checked in
- There are three temperatures to
remember: 160 °F (71.1 °C) for
ground meats and egg dishes; 145 °F
(62.8 °C) for beef, veal, pork, and
lamb steaks, roasts, and chops (allow
the meat to rest for 3 minutes before
carving or consuming); and 165 °F
(73.9 °C) for all poultry, casseroles,
and reheating leftovers.
- Clean your food thermometer with soap and hot water before and after each use.
Just as you set your water heater to
a safe temperature to avoid potential
burns, it is also important to maintain
your refrigerator at a temperature setting
that prevents the growth of harmful
bacteria. Harmful bacteria grow quickly
in the "Danger Zone" [temperatures
between 40 and 140 °F (4.4 and 60 °C)].
- Maintain your refrigerator temperature at 40 °F (4.4 °C) or below.
- Maintain your freezer temperature at 0 °F (-17.7 °C) or below.
- Divide cooked foods into small portions and place in shallow containers so they can cool down fast in the refrigerator.
- Never defrost meat, poultry, or fish at room temperature. Defrost them in the refrigerator. You can also use
cold water or a microwave oven, but cook immediately after thawing.
- Don't leave food out for more than 2 hours or 1 hour at temperatures above 90 °F (32.2 °C).
Add These 4 Food Safety Steps to Your Home Safety Checklist:
Clean: Wash hands, cutting boards, utensils and countertops.
Separate: Keep raw meat, seafood, and poultry away from ready-to-eat foods.
Cook: Cook food to the right temperature.
Chill: Refrigerate promptly.
Check all your steps at FoodSafety.gov.
For more information on food safety, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline
(1-888-674-6854) or visit AskKaren.gov or
February 13, 2013
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