Basics for Handling Food Safely

Basics for Handling Food Safely

Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage are essential to prevent foodborne illness. You can't see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. In every step of food preparation, follow the four steps of the Food Safe Families campaign to keep food safe:

Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often.
Separate — Don't cross-contaminate.
Cook — Cook to the right temperature.
Chill — Refrigerate promptly.

Shopping

Purchase refrigerated or frozen items after selecting your non-perishables.
Never choose meat or poultry in packaging that is torn or leaking.
Do not buy food past "Sell-By," "Use-By," or other expiration dates.
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Storage

Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours—1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F (32.2 ºC).
Check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer with an appliance thermometer. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F (4.4 ºC) or below and the freezer at 0 °F (-17.7 ºC) or below.
Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within 2 days; other beef, veal, lamb, or pork, within 3 to 5 days.
Perishable food such as meat and poultry should be wrapped securely to maintain quality and to prevent meat juices from getting onto other food.
To maintain quality when freezing meat and poultry in its original package, wrap the package again with foil or plastic wrap that is recommended for the freezer.
Canned foods are safe indefinitely as long as they are not exposed to freezing temperatures, or temperatures above 90 °F. If the cans look ok, they are safe to use. Discard cans that are dented, rusted, or swollen. High-acid canned food (tomatoes, fruits) will keep their best quality for 12 to 18 months; low-acid canned food (meats, vegetables) for 2 to 5 years.