How to prevent foodborne illnesses

Every year, an estimated 48 million people in the U.S. experience a foodborne illness. Fortunately, with good kitchen practices, you can prevent foodborne illnesses from attacking your family.

woman preparing chicken

A foodborne illness affects the gastrointestinal tract and is caused by food or drinks that contain harmful bacteria. Though the illness typically lasts a short time, the symptoms are nasty: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and chills. Brace yourself against harmful bacteria every time you handle food:

Keep your hands clean

  • Wash your hands often, especially after using the bathroom, after changing a baby or having handling a pet or pet/items.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling food.
  • Wash your hands when moving from one food prep item to another.

Maintain a clean kitchen

  • Wash countertops and other kitchen surfaces before and after food preparation.
  • Always wash meats and poultry before preparing.
  • Wash all produce, paying particular attention to those that will be eaten raw.
  • Wash your sink and faucet after cleaning your food prep surfaces.
  • Protect your kitchen and food from insects, pests and animals.

Handle raw food with care

  • Separate raw eggs, meat, poultry and seafood from each other and from other foods.
  • Wash utensils and cutting board when moving from one food to another.
  • Utilize containers and baggies to avoid contact between raw and cooked foods.

Cook foods thoroughly

  • Use safe or treated water for cooking.
  • Make sure foods — particularly eggs, meat, poultry and seafood — are cooked thoroughly. Meat and poultry juices should be clear, not pink.
  • Bring soups and stews to a full boil to ensure that they’ve reached the appropriate temperature.
  • Reheat cooked food thoroughly.
  • Serve cooked foods hot.

Refrigerate fresh and cooked foods

  • Refrigerate cooked and perishable foods promptly — do not leave them at room temperature for more than two hours. Refrigerate even sooner in warm temperatures.
  • Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator. Do not thaw at room temperature.
  • Be aware of purchase dates. Cook meat and poultry within three days of purchasing or removing from freezer.
  • Be aware of expiration dates. Do not use products after their expiry date.
  • Do not store foods— cooked or raw — for too long, even when refrigerated

More helpful kitchen tips

No-mess cooking
Kitchen cleaning shortcuts
Stop the spread of salmonella


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