Food Safety

Outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella and botulism have appeared in the news lately, and contribute to the millions of cases of food-borne illness reported each year.  Food-borne illness is considered a major public health problem, and can affect everyone. Food safety is especially important for those with weak immune systems, like the elderly and those with HIV/AIDS.  Following food safety recommendations can help keep your food safe by preventing too much bacteria from growing inside the food.

There are four steps you can take to keep your food safe: clean, separate, cook and chill.

  1. Clean
    • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before preparing food, and after touching raw meat or eggs.
    • Clean cutting boards, dishes and utensils with warm water and soap before using them to prepare a different food.
    • Rinse produce under cold, running water. Scrub firm skinned fruits and vegetables with a vegetable brush.
    • Do not rinse raw meats. This can spread bacteria around the kitchen and into other foods.
  2. Separate
    • Separate raw meat from other foods in the grocery cart, refrigerator, and during food preparation.
    • Store raw meat on the bottom of the refrigerator, ready-to eat foods on the top shelves, produce in the drawers, and store eggs in their cardboard container in the refrigerator door. Keep all foods covered with a lid or other type of seal.
    • Use one cutting board for raw meats, and one for other foods. If you do not have 2 cutting boards, be sure to wash and sanitize your cutting board after preparing raw meats. Sanitize a board by placing it in the dishwasher, or use a diluted bleach solution (1 Tbsp bleach for each gallon of water).
    • Grab a new plate for cooked foods. Do not place cooked food on the same plate that was used when the food was raw
  3. Cook
    • Use a food thermometer to be sure that your food is cooked to a temperature that will kill bacteria and viruses that could make you sick.
    • Follow these temperature guidelines:
    Food Temperature
    Ground beef 160°F
    Roasts and steaks 145°F
    Poultry 165°F
    Pork 160°F
    Seafood 145°F
    Egg dishes 145°F
    Casseroles 165°F
    Leftovers Reheat to 165°F


  4. Chill
    • Keep refrigerator at 40°F or below and freezer at 0° or below.
    • Refrigerate food immediately after returning from the grocery store. Be sure to plan the grocery store as your last stop when running errands.
    • Place leftovers in shallow containers with lids, and refrigerate immediately
    • Never defrost food on the counter. Safely defrost foods in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave.
    • Discard cooled foods after:
    Food Refrigerator Freezer
    Eggs 3-5 weeks Don’t freeze
    Lunch Meats 3-5 days opened,
    2 weeks unopened
    1-2 months
    Ground and stew meat 1-2 days 3-4 months
    Steaks, Roasts 3-5 days 4-12 months
    Meat leftovers 3-4 days 2-3 months
    Fresh poultry 1-2 days 9 months
    Cooked poultry 2-4 days 4-6 months
    Fresh fish 1-2 days Fatty 2-3 months,
    lean 6 months
    Cooked fish 3-4 days 4-6 months

More Food Safety Tips
At the grocery store, check the “sell by” and “use by” dates to ensure food is fresh and safe to eat.  Do not eat expired foods.

  • If you are receiving Open Hand meals, make sure that you are home to receive them, or leave a cooler on the porch that has a frozen ice pack.  Place food from the cooler into the refrigerator as soon as you can. Heat Open Hand meals to 165°F.
  • Visit and for more food safety information and tips
  • Contact the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at (888)674-6854