Food Safety Tips

Each year, thousands of Washington residents become sick because of food that is prepared in an unsafe manner. Follow these precautions to help prevent foodborne illness.

When Buying

  • Keep raw meats separate from other foods (especially fruits and vegetables) in your shopping cart and grocery bags. Raw meats that are wrapped for display often leak. Put meat into a plastic bag to prevent drips that may contaminate other food.

When Preparing

  • Always wash hands before you begin to prepare food and after handling raw meats. Use warm water, soap and paper towels. Clean-looking hands can be contaminated with millions of germs. Inadequate hand washing is a leading cause of foodborne disease today.
  • Keep your kitchen and utensils clean. Sanitize cutting boards, knives and countertops that come into contact with raw meat by using a solution of bleach water (1 teaspoon bleach per gallon of water) or antibacterial cleaner.
  • Don't re-use wash cloths after wiping countertops, especially after cleaning up raw meat juice.
  • Wash all produce, especially if it is to be eaten raw.
    • Fruits and vegetables should be washed by rinsing well in running cold water and scrubbing, instead of by soaking in standing water.
    • Tough-skinned produce, such as cantaloupe, should be scrubbed with a brush or cloth during washing.
  • Be sure meat is thawed. Frozen or partially frozen meat is easy to undercook.
  • Cook food to a safe internal temperature. Use a food thermometer. For meats, the three main cooking temperatures to remember are 145 for whole meats, 160 for ground meats, and 165 for poultry. Depending upon your taste, you may want to cook the meat to a higher internal temperature. Cook meats to the following minimum internal temperatures:
    • Whole or ground chicken, turkey, or other poultry: 165 degrees F.
    • Ground beef, pork, hamburger, or egg dishes: 160 degrees F.
    • Whole cuts (such as roasts, steaks, chops) of beef, pork, veal, and lamb: 145 degrees. Allow the meat to "rest" for 3 minutes before cutting or eating.
    • Hot dogs, sausages: 165 degrees F.
    • Fish and shellfish: 145 degrees F.
  • Refrigerate foods immediately. Don't leave food on the counter to "cool down." Cut or divide solid food (meat) into small pieces and cool in uncovered containers in the refrigerator. Only cover the container after the food is below 45 degrees F.

When Serving

  • Don't allow perishable food to sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep track. After two hours, refrigerate, reheat, or throw it away.
  • Arrange and serve food on several small platters instead of one large one. Keep the rest of the food either hot or cold.
  • Keep hot foods hot (above 140 degrees F). Use warming trays, when possible.
  • Keep cold foods cold. Nest dishes in bowls of ice, when possible.
  • Don't serve drinks or foods that are made with raw eggs.

When Storing

  • Refrigerate leftovers immediately
  • Reheat all leftovers (or previously cooked foods) to at least 165 degrees F.

More Resources

Food Safety Resources for You and Your Family


Content Source: Food Safety Program