In order to avoid foodborne illnesses, food safety guidelines should be practiced when purchasing, prepping, cooking/reheating, and storing foods.  The danger begins once the food items are expired, reheated incorrectly or at room temperature for more than two hours. Bacteria can start to grow as food is opened and exposed to temperatures between 40o-140o F.  For instance, if you are barbequing outside and the macaroni salad is left outside all day, throw it out!  Once the bacteria have a chance to grow, you could experience food borne illnesses. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, malaise, dizziness, blurred vision, and death! Four basics of food safety: Wash your hands before and after you handle raw food items, separate raw meats and vegetables, cook to the correct temperatures and chill in the refrigerator/ freezer right away.

Before you start throwing everything out of your refrigerator, check out these tips:

Purchasing foods:

  • Be sure to look for the expiration dates/will you eat it before it expires?
  • Make sure there is no discoloration in the food or the smell is off.
  • Inspect the integrity of the packaging, making sure it is sealed. (Do not buy dented cans even on sale!)
  • Shop for dry goods first, refrigerated items last.

Preparing foods:

  • Wash your hands and work surfaces often.
  • Use separate cutting board for raw meats.
  • Do not wash meats as this can spread the bacteria all over your sink.
  • Clean produce with a soft bristled brush before cutting.
  • Use clean utensils and cutting board for raw vegetables.
  • Defrost meats properly. (microwave, refrigerator or sink with running cold water only)

Cooking and reheating:

  • Use cooking thermometer and place in thickest part of the meat to check for temperature.
  • Poultry above 165o
  • Whole cuts of beef/pork/lamb above 145o
  • Ground hamburger/pork 165o
  • Do not reuse preparation plate. (cooked meat should never be placed where raw meat laid)
  • Reheated items must have internal temperature of 165o

Storing foods:

  • Make sure your appliances are working properly. Temperatures should be below 40o F for refrigeration and below 0o F in freezer.
  • If you do not have a built-in thermometer, buy one at the store.
  • Bacteria can grow even in your refrigerator!
  • Chill leftover foods within 2 hours after prep.
  • Separate raw from fresh foods.

Please read the following article to learn more about food safety and food borne illnesses: