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Extension > Food > Food Safety > Preserving and Preparing > Safe Meals > A Quick Consumer Guide to Safe Food Handling

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Preparing Safe Meals

A Quick Consumer Guide to Safe Food Handling

William Schafer

This publication tells you what to do at each step in food handling — from shopping through storing leftovers — to avoid food poisoning.

Never had poisoning? Actually, it's called foodborne illness. Perhaps you have, but thought you were sick with the flu. One in six Americans will suffer from foodborne illness this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Why? Because at the right temperature, bacteria you can't see, smell or taste can multiply to the millions in a few short hours. In large numbers, they cause illness.

It doesn't have to happen, though. Many foodborne illnesses can be avoided if food is handled safely. So here's what to do:

Buy Cold Food Last and Get it Home Fast

Refrigerate Food to Keep it Safe

Keep Food Preparation Areas and Tools Clean

Cook Food Thoroughly

It takes thorough cooking to kill harmful bacteria. You're taking chances when you eat meat, poultry, fish, or eggs that are raw or only partly cooked. Some ground beef may turn prematurely brown before a safe internal temperature of 160° F has been reached. Color of meat is no longer considered a reliable indicator of ground beef safety.

Microwave Safely

A great timesaver, the microwave has one food safety disadvantage. It sometimes leaves cold spots in food. Bacteria can survive in these spots. So:

Never Leave Food Out for More Than 2 Hours

Put Leftovers in Small Containers so They Cool Quickly

Reheat Leftovers Thoroughly

Kept it Too Long? When in Doubt, Throw it Out.

Safe refrigerator and freezer storage time-limits are given for many common foods in the cold storage table. But what about something you totally forgot about and may have kept too long?

Revised 2013

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