How to reduce your risk of food-borne illness

Source: P.F. Chang's
Source: P.F. Chang's

About 3,000 people die of food born infection and illness in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Food that appears fine can contain bacteria, viruses or parasites.


Tips to handle food

  • Separate meat and poultry from eggs and other foods.
  • Use one cutting board for raw foods and another for ready-to-eat foods
  • Use food thermometer to check internal temperature of cooked foods. Poultry and leftovers needs to cook or reheat to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 Fahrenheit 
  • Bring sauces and soups to a boil when reheating
  • Cover food in microwave oven, rotate food, stir and allow standing time.  
  • The refrigerator needs to be at 40 Fahrenheit and the freezer below 0 Fahrenheit.
  • Refrigerate poultry within 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90 Fahrenheit 
  • Defrost food in cold water or in the microwave --  never at room temperature. 
  • Buy pasteurized milk, juices, cheese and eggs.

Cleaning tips

  • Use a solution made of one tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water to clean counter tops. Use disposable paper towels.
  • It's important to wash your hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Use hot soapy water to keep cutting boards, utensils and dishes clean. 
  • Spray vinegar on produce and rinse it under running tap water
  • Clean lids before opening canned goods

The enemies

Uncooked fresh fruits and vegetables and animal products such as cheeses made with raw milk or undercooked eggs are more risky. Here is a list of the most common pathogens:

Campylobacter: It can be found in raw or undercooked meat, poultry or shellfish 

Crystoporidum: It can be found in uncooked food

Clostridium perfringens: It can be found in meat and poultry and food left at room temperature

Listeria monocytogenes: It can be found in improperly reheated cold cuts, raw vegetables and cheese made with unpasteurized milk

Escherichia coli: It can be found in undercooked beef, apple cider, raw fruits and vegetables.

Noroviruses: It can be found in shellfish and ready-to-eat foods

Salmonella: It can be found in raw or undercooked eggs, poultry and meat, cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables

Toxoplasma gondii: It can be found in raw or undercooked meat.

Vibrio vulnificus: It can be found in undercooked or raw seafood.


For more information call the USDA Meat & Poultry hotline at 1-888-723-3366