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his booklet tells you what to do at
|| each step in food handling-from
d shopping through storing left-
overs-to avoid food poisoning.
Never had food poisoning? Actually, it's
called foodborne illness. Perhaps you
have, but thought you were sick with the
flu. Some 33 million Americans could suf-
fer from foodborne illness this year.
Why? Because under the right conditions,
bacteria you can't see, smell or taste can
make you sick.
It doesn't have to happen, though. Many
such cases could be avoided if people just
handled food properly. So here's what to
4" YO[U HOP
,i ::S\ Buy cold food last,
V get it home fast
* When you're out, grocery shop last.
Take food straight home to the refrig-
erator. Never leave food in a hot car!
* Don't buy anything you won't use be-
fore the use-by date.
* Don't buy food in poor condition. Make
sure refrigerated food is cold to the
touch. Frozen food should be rock-
solid. Canned goods should be free of
dents, cracks or bulging lids which can
indicate a serious food poisoning
HEN YOU STORE FOOD
Keep it safe,
Check the temperature of your refrigerator
with an appliance thermometer. To keep
bacteria in check, the refrigerator should
run at 40 F; the freezer unit at 00 F. Keep
your refrigerator as cold as possible with-
out freezing milk or lettuce.
* Freeze fresh meat, poultry or fish im-
mediately if you can't use it within a few
* Put packages of raw meat, poultry or
fish on a plate before refrigerating so
their juices won't drip on other food.
Raw juices often contain bacteria.
Keep everything clean,
Thaw in refrigerator
* Wash hands in hot soapy water before
preparing food and after using the bath-
room, changing diapers and handling
* Harmful bacteria multiply quickly in
kitchen towels, sponges and cloths.
Wash cloth items often in hot-cycle in
your machine. Consider using paper
towels to clean up meat and poultry
juices. Avoid sponges or place them in
the dishwasher daily to kill bacteria.
* Keep raw meat, poultry and fish and
their juices away from other food. For
instance, wash your hands, cutting
board, knife and countertops in hot
soapy water after cutting up the chicken
and before slicing salad ingredients.
Also use hot soapy water to wash sink
and kitchen faucet handles the raw
meat or your "meat-covered" hands
* Use plastic or other non-porous cutting
boards rather than wooden ones. These
boards should be run through the dish-
washer after use.
* What about antibacterial sanitizers in
the kitchen? Food handling experts feel
hot soapy water used properly should
protect you adequately against
foodborne bacteria. However, kitchen
sanitizers (including a mixture of bleach
and water) can provide some added
protection. NOTE: Sanitizer product di-
rections must be followed carefully as
products differ greatly.
* Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or
in the microwave, NOT on the kitchen
counter. Marinate in the refrigerator
W HEN YOU'RE
It takes thorough cooking to kill harmful
bacteria, so you're taking chances when
you eat meat, poultry, fish or eggs that are
raw or only partly cooked. Plus, ham-
burger that is red in the middle and rare
steak and roast beef are also undercooked
from the safety standpoint.
* Generally cook red meat to 1600 F. Cook
poultry to 1800 F. Use a meat thermom-
eter to check that it's cooked all the way
* To check visually, red meat is done
when it's brown or grey inside. Poultry
juices run clear. Fish flakes with a fork.
* Ground meat, where bacteria can spread
throughout the meat during processing,
should be cooked to at least 1600 F. This
means there is no pink left in the middle
or in juices. You can allow large cuts like
roasts to stay slightly pink in the center
as long as they've reached at least 1450
F (medium-rare). Do not serve any cut
at this low temperature if you have
scored (cut or poked with a
fork) or tenderized it be-
fore cooking, thus forcing
surface bacteria into the
* Salmonella, a bacteria that causes food
poisoning, can grow inside fresh, un-
broken eggs. So cook eggs until the
yolk and white are firm, not runny.
Scramble eggs to a firm texture. Don't
use recipes in which eggs remain raw
or only partially cooked.
A great timesaver, the microwave has one
food safety disadvantage. It sometimes
leaves cold spots in food. Bacteria can
survive in these spots. So...
* Cover food with a lid or plastic wrap so
steam can aid thorough cooking. Vent
wrap and make sure it doesn't touch
* Stir and rotate your food for even cook-
ing. No turntable? Rotate the dish by
hand once or twice during cooking.
* Observe the standing time called for in
a recipe or package directions. During
the standing time, food finishes cook-
Use the oven tempera-
ture probe or a meat
0 thermometer to check
that food is done. Insert
Iit at several spots.
WHEN YOU SERVE FOOD
Never leave it out over 2 hours
* Use clean dishes and utensils to serve
food, not those used in preparation.
Serve grilled food on a clean plate too,
not one that held raw meat, poultry or
* Never leave perishable food out of the
refrigerator over 2 hours! Bacteria that
can cause food poisoning grow quickly
at warm temperatures.
* Pack lunches in insulated carriers with
a cold pack. Caution children never to
leave lunches in direct sun or on a
* Carry picnic food in a cooler with a cold
pack. When possible, put the cooler in
the shade. Keep the lid on as much as
* Party time? Keep cold party food on ice
or serve it throughout the gathering
from platters from the refrigerator.
Likewise, divide hot party food into
smaller serving platters. Keep platters
refrigerated until time to warm them up
HEN You HANDLE
* Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a
boil. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to
* Microwave leftovers using a lid or
vented plastic wrap for thorough heat-
When in doubt, thr700 LONw it out
When in doubt, throw it out
Safe refrigerator and freezer storage time-
limits are given for many common foods
in the "Cold Storage" table in this booklet.
But what about something you totally for-
got about and may have kept too long?
* Danger-never taste food that looks or
smells strange to see if you can still use
it. Just discard it.
* Is it Moldy? The mold you see is only
the tip of the iceberg. The poisons
molds can form are found under the
surface of the food. So, while you can
sometimes save hard cheese and
salamis and firm fruits and vegetables
by cutting the mold out-remove a
large area around it, most moldy food
should be discarded.
Use small containers for quick cooling
* Divide large amounts of leftovers into
small, shallow containers for quick
cooling in the refrigerator. Don't pack
the refrigerator-cool air must circulate
to keep food safe.
* With poultry or other stuffed meats, re-
move stuffing and refrigerate it in sepa-
"ii'!t- M1, MMp
Product (400 F) (00 F)
Fresh, in shell 3 weeks Don't freeze
Raw yolks, whites 2-4 days 1 year
Hardcooked 1 week Don't freeze well
Liquid pasteurized eggs or
egg substitutes, opened 3 days Don't freeze
unopened 10 days 1 year
Refrigerate after opening 2 months Don't freeze
TV Dinners, Frozen Casseroles
Keep frozen until ready to serve 3-4 months
Deli & Vacuum-Packed Products
Store-prepared (or homemade) egg,
chicken, tuna, ham, macaroni salads 3-5 days
Pre-stuffed pork & lamb chops,
chicken breasts stuffed with dressing 1 day These products don't
Store-cooked convenience meals 1-2 days freeze well
Commercial brand vacuum-packed 2 weeks,
dinners with USDA seal unopened
Soups & Stews
Vegetable or meat-added 3-4 days 2-3 months
Hamburger, Ground & Stew Meats
Hamburger & stew meats 1-2 days 3-4 months
Ground turkey, veal, pork, lamb
& mixtures of them 1-2 days 3-4 months
Hotdogs & Lunch Meats
Hotdogs, opened package
Lunch meats, opened
In freezer wrap,
NOTE: These SHORT but safe time limits will help keep
refrigerated food from spoiling or becoming dangerous
to eat. These time limits will keep frozen food at top quality.
Bacon & Sausage
Bacon 7 days 1 month
Sausage, raw from pork, beef, turkey 1-2 days 1-2 months
Smoked breakfast links, patties 7 days 1-2 months
Hard sausage-pepperoni, jerky sticks 2-3 weeks 1-2 months
Ham, Corned Beef
Corned beef Drained, wrapped
in pouch with pickling juices 5-7 days 1 month
Label says keep refrigerated 6-9 months Don't freeze
Ham, fully cooked-whole 7 days 1-2 months
Ham, fully cooked-half 3-5 days 1-2 months
Ham, fully cooked-slices 3-4 days 1-2 months
Steaks, beef 3-5 days 6-12 months
Chops, pork 3-5 days 4-6 months
Chops, lamb 3-5 days 6-9 months
Roasts, beef 3-5 days 6-12 months
Roasts, lamb 3-5 days 6-9 months
Roasts, pork & veal 3-5 days 4-6 months
Variety meats-Tongue, brain,
kidneys, liver, heart, chitterlings 1-2 days 3-4 months
Cooked meat and meat dishes 3-4 days 2-3 months
Gravy and meat broth 1-2 days 2-3 months
Chicken or turkey, whole 1-2 days 1 year
Chicken or turkey pieces 1-2 days 9 months
Giblets 1-2 days 3-4 months
Cooked Poultry, Leftover
Cooked poultry dishes
Pieces covered with broth, gravy
Chicken nuggets, patties
Eggs & Egg Dishes
Eggs Cook until yolk
& white are firm
Egg dishes 160
Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures
Turkey, chicken 165
Veal, beef, lamb, pork 160
Medium Rare 145
Well Done 170
Medium Rare 145
Well Done 170
Medium Rare 145
Well Done 170
Well Done 170
Chicken, whole 180
Turkey, whole 180
Poultry breasts, roasts 170
Poultry thighs, wings Cook until juices
(cooked alone or in bird) 165
D uck & Goose 180
Fresh (raw) 160
Pre-cooked (to reheat) 140
Without power, a full upright or chest
freezer will keep everything frozen for
about 2 days. A half-full freezer will keep
food frozen 1 day.
If power will be coming back on fairly
soon, you can make the food last longer
by keeping the door shut as much as pos-
If power will be off for an extended pe-
riod, take food to friends' freezers, locate
a commercial freezer or use dry ice.
Your refrigerator-freezer combination
Without power, the refrigerator section
will keep food cool 4-6 hours depending
on the kitchen temperature.
A full, well-functioning freezer unit should
keep food frozen for 2 days. A half-full
freezer unit should keep things frozen
about 1 day.
Block ice can keep food on the refrigera-
tor shelves cooler. Dry ice can be added
to the freezer unit. You can't touch dry ice
and you shouldn't breathe the fumes, so
follow handling instructions carefully.
Food still containing ice crystals or that
feels refrigerator-cold can be refrozen.
Discard any thawed food that has risen to
room temperature and remained there 2
hours or more. Immediately discard any-
thing with a strange color or odor.
IS IT FOOD
If you or a family member develop nau-
sea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or cramps,
you could have food poisoning. Unfortu-
nately, it's not always easy to tell since,
depending on the illness, symptoms can
appear anywhere from 30 minutes to 2
weeks after eating bad food. Most often,
though, people get sick within 4 to 48
hours after eating.
In more serious cases, food poisoning
victims may have nervous system prob-
lems like paralysis, double vision or
trouble swallowing or breathing.
If symptoms are severe or the victim is
very young, old, pregnant, or already ill,
call a doctor or go to the hospital right
WHEN TO REPORT
You or your physician should report seri-
ous cases of foodborne illness to the local
health department. Report any food poi-
soning incidents if the food involved came
from a restaurant or commercial outlet.
Give a detailed, but short account of the
incident. If the food is a commercial prod-
uct, have it in hand so you can describe it
over the phone.
If you're asked to keep the food refriger-
ated so officials can examine it later, fol-
low directions carefully.
or more information on food
handling, call USDA's Meat and
10-4 weekdays Eastern Time
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How this booklet was developed.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service asked food
scientists to analyze consumer handling of food in the home
using a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point)
approach. This booklet, the result of that effort, guides you
past those critical points in everyday food handling where
experts say making the "wrong" move could lead to
Home and Garden Bulletin No. 248
Revised October 1995
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service
For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop: SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-9328