General Food Safety Guidelines

Chrome 2001
Aetna Intelihealth InteliHealth Aetna Intelihealth Aetna Intelihealth
. .
Harvard Medical School
Chrome 2001
Chrome 2001

General Food Safety Guidelines

Food Safety
General Food Safety Guidelines
General Food Safety Guidelines
While there are specific guidelines for preventing each of the major food-borne illnesses, there are some guidelines that should be followed at all times.
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

General Food Safety Guidelines

While there are specific guidelines for preventing each of the major food-borne illnesses, there are some guidelines that should be followed at all times:

Shop wisely

  • Don't buy bent or dented cans.
  • Don't buy cans that bulge out at the top or bottom.
  • Don't buy cracked, leaky or broken jars.
  • Check expiration dates on packaged foods, and never buy outdated food.
  • Don't buy cracked eggs.

Store safely

  • Check the temperature of your freezer and refrigerator. Freezer temperature should be below freezing (0 degrees F or -18 degrees C), and refrigerator temperature should be 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) or less.
  • Freeze or refrigerate perishables immediately.
  • Store eggs in the body of the refrigerator in their original carton, not on the door which is warmer.
  • Wrap raw meat and poultry so they can't leak juices onto other foods.
  • Store leftovers in tight containers. Shallow dishes are best because they allow for quick and even cooling.
  • Check stored food for signs of spoilage, and throw away any food that looks or smells "funny."
  • Don't over-pack refrigerator or freezer. Air needs to circulate around the stored food.
  • Keep seafood in the refrigerator or freezer until needed.
  • Refrigerate hot foods within two hours after cooking. If foods stand out for longer than two hours, throw them away.
  • Use leftovers within three to five days. After that, throw them away.
  • Use uncooked beef and poultry within one to two days after thawing.

Avoid cross-contamination

  • Use one cutting board for raw meat and poultry, and a separate cutting board for hot, cooked meat and vegetables.
  • Wash hands and cooking utensils thoroughly in soap and hot water after touching raw meat or poultry, and before handling any other food.
  • Don't put cooked meats or poultry on a plate that held raw meat or poultry unless the plate has been thoroughly cleaned.
  • Wash kitchen counters and cutting boards thoroughly with soap after preparing raw meat or poultry.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold

  • Don't let frozen foods, including meat and poultry, defrost on the kitchen counter at room temperature. Let them defrost slowly in the refrigerator, or use the microwave.
  • Cook all meats thoroughly. Beef should be brown or gray in the middle, not pink or rare. Chicken should have no hint of pink and juices should run clear.
  • Use a meat thermometer to assure proper temperature: Beef, lamb and pork should be cooked to 160 degrees F (71 degrees C); whole poultry and thighs to 180 degrees F (82 degrees C); chicken breasts to 170 degrees F (77 degrees C).
  • Cook fish until opaque and flaky.
  • Cook reheated foods to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Food should be steaming.
  • Cook soups, sauces and gravies to boiling when reheating.
  • If microwaving food, make sure there are no cold spots.
  • Serve hot foods as quickly as possible.

More food safety

  • Cook eggs until the yolk is hardened and the white is solid.
  • Don't make recipes that leave eggs uncooked.
  • Follow proper guidelines if canning at home.
  • Throw away canned foods that bulge.
  • Throw away foods that have out-lived their expiration date.
  • Don't taste food you are preparing, such as cookie dough, if it contains raw eggs.
  • Avoid raw or unpasteurized milk and milk products.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
  • Encourage family members to wash hands thoroughly before eating or handling food.




Last updated September 30, 2013

    Print Printer-friendly format    
This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.