Bacteria can quickly spread throughout the kitchen. Frequent cleaning can keep it from spreading through hands, cutting boards, knives, and countertops.
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water.
- Use clean 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 even those with skins and rinds that will be peeled.
- Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing under running water.
Bacteria can spread through cross contamination. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from ready-to-eat foods.
- Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods at all times including in your shopping cart.
- Never put cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.
Proper cooking can prevent bacteria from surviving.
- Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods.
- Visit FoodSafety.gov for a downloadable chart with safe minimum internal temperatures.
- Cook ground meat or ground poultry until it reaches a safe temperature. Color is not a reliable indicator.
- Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. Do not use recipes that contain raw eggs in the finished dish.
- Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a boil when reheating.
Bacteria spreads rapidly at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. Chilling food properly is one effective way to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
- Chill leftovers within 2 hours. Keep the refrigerator at 40°F or below. Use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods as soon as you get them home from the store.
- Do not defrost food at room temperature. Safely defrost food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
Safe Food Storage
Proper food storage will help ensure that your food is safe and fresh. The dates on many food packages can help you decide if your food is still safe to eat.
- A “freshness date” or “best if used by date” tells you how long a food will be fresh and at top quality if it is stored properly. After that date, the product may be safe to eat, but may not taste as good.
- A “sell by date” is the last day a food should be sold at the grocery store. Most foods will still be fresh and safe to eat for a week or so after the sell by date.
- An “expiration date” is the last day a food should be eaten and may not be safe to eat after the date has passed.