Food Safety

Nutrition information about storing and preparing food
  • The most commonly reported causes of foodborne illnesses are:
  • Failure to cool food properly
  • Failure to cook and hold food at the proper temperature
  • Poor personal hygiene (3)
According to food safety experts, bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen. One way to prevent this is through proper handwashing techniques. Wash hands in hot soapy water before preparing food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets. For best results, you should use warm water to moisten hands and then apply soap and rub your hands together for 20 seconds before rinsing thoroughly. (4)

Food safety experts agree that foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. The best way to do this is to use a meat thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat and poultry, to make sure that the meat is cooked all the way through. (4)

According to both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, refrigeration at 40°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce risk of foodborne illness. The best way to make sure your refrigerator is maintaining the recommended temperature of 40°F or below is to check it with a refrigerator thermometer. This type of thermometer is usually a separate tool that stays in the refrigerator and displays the actual temperature. It is not a numbered dial that helps you adjust temperature. (4)

Cross-contamination is how bacteria spreads from one food product to another. This is especially true for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Experts caution to keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods. Here’s how: (4)
  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other food in the grocery shopping cart.
  • Store raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so juices don’t drip onto other foods.
  • If possible, use one cutting board for raw meat products and another for salads and other foods which are ready to be eaten.
  • Always wash cutting boards, knives and other utensils with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate which previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.

Some Federal Nutrition Programs that are available to potentially help individuals, children and families, based on eligibility include: (5)
  • School Breakfast Program
  • National School Lunch Program
  • Summer Nutrition Program
  • Food Stamp Program
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program For Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program
  • Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)

The 5 A Day for Better Health program is a nation-wide plan that motivates Americans to eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The consumption of fruits and vegetables promotes good health and lowers the risk for many cancers, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. The recommendation for intake of fruits and vegetables varies with age. Young children, between the ages of 2 and 6, should consume at least 5 servings per day. Older children, teenage girls, and active women should consume at least 7 servings per day. The recommendation for teenage boys and men is at least 9 servings per day. (6)

It’s important to be prepared for emergencies. One of the ways to do this is by having an emergency water & food kit on hand. Some items to include are one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation. Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person. You should also store at least three days supply of non-perishable food, selecting foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water. Choose ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, protein and fruit bars, dry cereal, peanut butter, dried fruits, nuts, crackers, canned juices, and food for infants.

Remember, to include a manual can opener and disposable eating utensils. (7)
It is important to minimize the potential for foodborne illnesses due to power outages by keeping the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after four hours without power. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if half full and door remains closed). When in doubt, throw it out. (1)

Although some people may be concerned about just one part of the nutrition label, looking at the whole picture can give you the information you need to make smart food choices. To make good choices, you need to have a handle on many different parts of the label, including food label claims, calorie measurements, serving size, percent daily values, minerals and vitamins, nutrients, and fat percentages. (8)

Commonly Used Terms:

Foodborne Illness:
A disease carried or transmitted to people by food.(3)

FIFO (First in, First Out):
A method of stock rotation in which products are shelved based on their use-by or expiration dates, so oldest products are used first. Products with the earliest use-by or expiration dates are stored in front or products with later dates. (3)

Shelf Life:
Recommended period of time during which food can be stored and remain suitable for use. (3)

Food Contamination:

The presence of harmful substances in the food. Some food safety hazards occur naturally, while others are introduced by humans or the environment. (3)

Time-Temperature Abuse:
Food has been time-temperature abused any time it has been allowed to remain too long at temperatures favorable to the growth of foodborne microorganisms. (3)

Occurs when microorganisms are transferred from one surface or food to another. (3)

  1. USDA
  2. America’s Second Harvest
  3. National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, ServSafe, second edition
  4. Partnership for Food Safety Education
  5. Food Research and Action Center
  7. U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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