Safe Food Handling - PIH Health

Skip to Content

Published on December 23, 2014

Safe Food Handling

Safe food handling

The holiday season is the time of year when we often cook for others. However, food poisoning is not what we want to give our friends and family this holiday season or any other time of the year.  According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 1 in 6 Americans suffer from food poisoning each year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.   Don’t become a statistic this year.

Four Basic Rules to Follow

Clean - wash hands and surfaces often

Separate - separate raw meats from other foods

Cook - cook food to the right temperature

Chill - refrigerate foods promptly


You can spread bacteria throughout your kitchen without even knowing it. To keep bacteria from spreading, be sure to:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, using the restroom, changing diapers and handling pets
  • Wash your utensils, counter tops and cutting boards with hot soapy water after preparing each food item
  • Wash dish clothes often in hot water and consider using paper towels to clean your countertops
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water.  Use a vegetable brush and water to clean firm-skinned fruits and vegetables
  • Clean the tops of canned goods before opening the can


Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria from one food spreads to another.  This happens most often with raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.  Keep these foods and their juices from ready-to-eat foods.  Avoid cross-contamination by following these practices:

  • Separate raw meat, poultry, fish and eggs from other foods in your shopping cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator
  • Use one cutting board for raw meats, one for cooked meats and one for fresh produce
  • Never place cooked foods on a plate that had raw meat on it
  • Never reuse marinades that were used on raw foods


Cooking food to the right temperature kills bacteria that can cause illness.  The color of meat is not a reliable indicator.  Refer to this chart for safe cooking temperatures and use a cooking thermometer.  Check food in several places to make sure it has reached the proper temperature.


Bacteria grow between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F.  Refrigerating food promptly slows the growth of harmful bacteria.  To chill foods properly:

  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods within two hours of cooking or purchasing
  • Always marinate food in the refrigerator
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into smaller containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator
  • Follow these storage times for refrigerated or frozen foods
  • Never thaw food on the countertop or at room temperature.  You can thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

Follow Us

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Instagram

Don't miss any Healthy Living Online posts - Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.