Ways To Prevent Foodborne Illness
Contaminated food can make you
or someone else ill. When people think they have the "flu" or
a "stomach bug," they may have a foodborne illness (FBI). One
cannot tell from the way food looks, smells or tastes if it
is safe or not, but here are top seven ways to prevent foodborne
You can make the difference.
Improper cooling or holding
Cooling food too slowly is the
major cause of foodborne illness. Potentially hazardous foods,
such as meats, seafood, poultry and dairy products must be rapidly
cooled from 140°F to 70°F within two hours, then from
70°F to 41°F within four hours.
Contaminated raw foods or ingredients
- Store food to be cooled in
shallow pans no deeper than 3-4 inches
- Cool container of food in
an icewater bath of half water and half ice.
- Stir the food often while
- Refrigerate hot foods uncovered
in shallow pans immediately. (Use a freezer to speed it up)
- Do not place tight covers
on foods during cooling.
- Allow air circulation in
- Refrigerate canned foods
prior to mixing it with other foods. (example: can of tuna)
- Do not cool foods at room
temperature longer than 30 minutes.
Infected person handling foods
- Certain raw foods, such as
meat, fish, poultry, shellfish, milk and eggs may be contaminated
with bacteria or viruses. These microorganisms can be spread
during processing and preparation and can easily survive in
the food if heating is inadequate.
- Buy foods from an approved
- Cook foods to the proper
- Keep cold foods properly
- Wash all raw fruits and vegetables
- Avoid cross-contamination
by using a separate cutting board/utensil for raw and cooked
products unless they are sanitized between uses. Use a different
cutting board for fruits, vegetables and breads than you do
People with poor food handling
habits and poor personnel hygiene are the biggest contributors
to foodborne illness outbreaks. Here is what you can do:
Inadequate cooking or heating
- Do not handle food if you
have colds, flu, diarrhea or hepatitis.
- Do not handle food if you
have infected cuts, burns or lesions on the hands or lower
- Wash hands effectively during
- Wash hands after eating,
smoking, blowing nose, etc.
- Do not wipe hands or utensils
on apron or cloth towels.
- Do not touch ready-to-eat
foods with bare hands, if possible.
- Use utensils, deli paper,
disposable gloves, etc.
- Use hand sanitizers after
- All potentially hazardous
foods must be cooked to a safe internal temperature before
- Cook poultry, stuffing and
dressing at 165°F for at least 15 seconds.
- Cook ground beef and pork
products to 155°F for at least 15 seconds.
- Cook beef cuts and other
foods to at least 145°F.
- Do not rely on the color
of the food, but use a food thermometer to check the temperature.
Reheating leftover and refrigerated
foods to improper temperatures is also a major cause of foodborne
illness. Many times this happens when foods are just "warmed
up" rather than heating thoroughly. Always reheat leftover refrigerated
foods RAPIDLY to 165°F before serving or hot holding. If
it is liquid, bring it to boil.
Obtaining food from an unsafe
In all food establishments, all
food received must be from an approved and inspected source.
Foods processed at private homes may not be offered for sale
to the public.
Time lapse between food preparation
Given sufficient time, bacteria
in food can grow depending on the type of food, the temperature
at which it was held, its moisture and its acidity
level. Foods that are prepared in advance of serving must be
handled very carefully. Such foods must be properly cooked,
cooled to proper temperatures and stored at 41°F or below.
Do not forget to reheat all leftover food to 165°F rapidly.
Return to the food
safety index page
the HDHHS Bureau of Consumer Health Services