Food safety is a shared responsibility from farm to fork (the consumer). Safe steps in food handling include but are not limited to shopping, preparing, cooking, and storing food.  These steps are essential to prevent foodborne illness.

You cannot see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. Follow the four steps of clean, separate, cook and chill to reduce your foodborne risks.

Know who is most susceptible of acquiring a foodborne illness, and ask your local extension office of ways to handle foods safely around pregnant women, young children birth to 5 years, older adults (50+ years), and immunocompromised persons (e.g. diabetics, organ transplant recipients…)


Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. 

Follow these top tips to keep your family safe

  • Refrigerate Promptly!

  • Do NOT over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe.

  • Use an appliance thermometer for your refrigerator and freezer.

  • NEVER defrost food at room temperature.

  • ALWAYS marinate food in the refrigerator.

  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.

  • Do NOT keep food in the refrigerator longer than 3 or 4 days.

      Click here for the complete chart on refrigerator and freezer

  • Keep cold foods cold!

Let's go shopping!

  • Always purchase non-perishable items first, such as rice and canned foods

  • Shopping for cold and frozen foods last, will ensure the foods will still be cold by checkout time

  • Once perishable foods are placed in your cart, you have two hours to get through the check-out, load your car, and get the groceries in the refrigerator or freezer.

  • Bring an insulated bag & gel packs to keep cold foods cold, remember to separate produce from raw meat, fish, and/or poultry

  • Ask for ice from the deli department

Refrigerate promptly

  • Never keep perishable food out of refrigeration for longer than two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 90°F)

  • After cooking, refrigerate foods within two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 90°F)

  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs and other perishables as soon as you get them home from the store

Thawing foods properly

  • Foods must always be kept at a safe temperature of 40°F or below

  • NEVER leave food outside the refrigerator to be thawed at room temperature, such as a kitchen counter

  • There are THREE ways to safely thaw foods

The three safe methods are:

  1. Refrigerator-ALWAY place the food to be thawed on the bottom shelf to avoid spills onto other foods

  2. Tub of cold water- using a tub instead of the entire sink to thaw foods will help prevent cross-contamination.  REMEMBER to change the cold water every 30 minutes to prevent bacterial growth

  3. Microwave-ALWAYS cook food immediately after it is thawed in a microwave

Is it safe to re-freeze food after thawing?

  • Only if thawing took place inside the refrigerator, in a safe temperature of 40°F or slightly below

  • When thawing in a tub of cold water or in the microwave, the food is exposed to higher temperatures and the food must be cooked immediately after thawing

Chill: Food Safety


Follow these top tips to keep your family safe

  1. Cooking foods to a safe minimum internal temperature

  2. Learn why temperature matters

  3. Reheating leftovers

  4. Microwave cooking

  5. Additional resources: calibrating a food thermometer and more!

Cook to proper temperatures, checking with a food thermometer. 
Even for experienced cooks improper cooking and reheating of food means bacteria can survivie. Use a food thermometer-you can't tell food is cooked safely by how it looks, tastes, feels, or smells.

Temperature Matters

  • Refrigerator temperatures should be 40°F or slightly below

  • Freezer temperatures should be 0°F or below

  • Remember the 2 hour rule! NEVER keep perishable food out of refrigeration for longer than two hours, and one hour if the temperature is above 90°F

  • Avoid keeping perishable food between 41°F-140°F, bacteria grow best in this range, also known as the DANGER ZONE

  • Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm, not runny.

  • Don't use recipes in which eggs remain raw or only partially cooked.

Why is the rest time important?

After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful bacteria.


Food Thermometers

  • Thermometers for your refrigerator, freezer, and food can cost less than $10. 

  • Find these thermometers at your local food market, hardware store, kitchen store, and online.

  • Appliance thermometers are critical during a power outage.

Did you know consumers ALWAYS use a food thermometer for:

  • Large pices of red meat is 37%

  • Poultry (thigs, wings, breats, etc) is 17%

  • Hamburgers is 9%

  • Egg dishes (quiche, bread pudding, etc) is 3%

Source: 2010 FDA/FSIS Consumer Food Safety Survey, Topline Frequency Report.

Reheating foods safely

  • The microwave, stove top or the oven is the quickest way to safely reheat foods as quickly as possible

  • Foods must be reheated within the two hour rule so as not to linger in the DANGER ZONE of 41°F-140°F

  • When using the oven to reheat, set the oven no lower than 325°F

  • Slow cookers are safe to cook with, but NEVER use a slow cooker to reheat leftovers. The slow cooking temperature would keep the food in the danger zone (41°F-140°F) for too long

Microwave Cooking

Microwave cooking does not always provide even heating. So here are some tips:

  • Stir and rotate food part way through the cooking or heating to avoid "cold spots"

  • Use a food thermometer to ensure the proper internal cooking temperature of the food item.

  • Break down large cuts of meat into smaller parts/pieces to ensure the heat reaches the center of the meat

  • DO NOT COOK whole stuffed food in the microwave. The oven may not heat the stuffing thoroughly

  • After defrosting meat, fish, and/or poultry in a microwave, ALWAYS cook the food IMMEDIATELY

Calibrating a Food Thermometer


Follow these top tips to keep your family safe

1.  Wash hands the right way-for 20 seconds with soap and running water.
2.  Wash surfaces and utensils after each use.
3.  Wash fruits and vegetables-but not meat, poultry, or eggs!

  • Clean- is the process of removing food and other types of soil from a surface, such as a dish, glass or cutting board, using hot soapy water.

  • Sanitize- is a process that reduces the number of harmful microorganisms on a properly cleaned surface to a safe level.

How to properly sanitize:

  1. First clean cutting boards and other surfaces with hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly. 

  2. Then use a solution of one tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water and allow the surface, equipment and utensils to air dry, or pat dry with paper towels.

How to properly clean surfaces

  • Use hot soapy water frequently to keep surfaces, equipment, and utensils clean.

    • Dishes and utensils may also be cleaned in the dishwasher.

    • Be sure to clean dishes, and counter tops with hot soapy water after each use and after each food item is prepared.

    • Hot soapy water should be used with paper towels to clean up spills.  Discard the paper towels no matter how clean they may look after use.

    •  If cloth towels are used, wash them often in hot soapy water.  Kitchen cloths that are used over and over without washing are a breeding ground for bacteria.

    • When was the last time you took apart your can opener, blender and other appliances like food processors?  These appliances and utensils need to be cleaned with hot soapy water after each use.

How to properly clean a sponge:     

United States Department of Agriculture recommends the following:

1. Heat the moist sponge for at least one minute in the microwave on high  or
2. Sponges may be placed in the dishwasher.  This method works best when using a dishwasher with a drying cycle.


Sanitizing the Kitchen

Hand Hygiene 

Follow these top tips to keep your family safe

1.  Wash hands the right way-for 20 seconds with soap and running water.
2.  Wash surfaces and utensils after each use.
3.  Wash fruits and vegetables-but not meat, poultry, or eggs!

Proper Hand Washing         

Hand washing is the single most important means of avoiding sickness and preventing the spread of disease” (Centers for Disease Control, CDC).

1. Wet hands thoroughly with warm water and add soap.

2. Scrub hands, wrists, fingernails, and in between fingers for at least 20 seconds.
*Adults—sing happy birthday twice.
*Children—sing the ABC song.

3. Rinse, then dry hands with a clean paper towel or cloth towel. Discard the paper towel or discard the cloth towel to be laundered. 

**Ideally the paper towel and cloth towel are used once for each hand drying activity**

  • Be sure to dry hands thoroughly. Wet or damp hands can attract bacteria.

  • Use lotion to moisturize. Dry hands can crack and provide openings for harmful pathogens to enter.


Do hand sanitizers work?

  • Yes. As long as the product is at least 60% alcohol.

  • Apply at least a dimes (or more) amount of product to palm of your hand. 

  • Rub product over entire surface of hands until hands are dry.

  • When using soap or alcohol based gel, be sure to dry hands thoroughly. Moist hands allow bacteria to form and grow.

  • Hand sanitizers may not work as well when your hands are visibly dirty and/or greasy.

Anti-bacterial soaps clean better?

  • No. There is no evidence to indicate that antibacterial soap cleans more effectively than plain soap.

  • For that reason, plain soap is recommended in public, non-healthcare settings and in the home unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.

  When should you wash your hands?            

Cuts and abrasions

  • 30% of all people have staph bacteria (Staphylococcus aureaus) on their skin and in their nose.  Hands that have cuts and other wounds can release infection. 

  • ALWAYS—clean the wound, wash your hands, cover with a clean dry bandage and use gloves if necessary.


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