Eating Safely

Frequently Asked Questions

3. What steps can I take to avoid foodborne illness when handling and preparing food?

You can take these simple steps to avoid foodborne illnesses when handling and preparing food – clean, separate, cook and chill.

  • Clean. Wash hands and surfaces often. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, and food.
  • Separate. Don’t cross-contaminate. Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria are spread from one food product to another. This is especially common when handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. The key is to keep these foods—and their juices—away from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook. Cook foods to safe temperatures. Use a food thermometer to be sure. The color of food is not a reliable indicator of safety or doneness. Always allow standing time, which completes the cooking, before checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer. (See recommended cooking temperatures for meat, poultry seafood and other types of food.)
  • Chill. Refrigerate promptly. Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40 °F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce risk of foodborne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator temperature is consistently 40 °F or below and the freezer temperature is 0 °F or below.