Wash hands and surfaces often
Separate your foods to prevent cross-contamination, in your cart and at home.
Cook foods to the proper temperatures
Refrigerate foods promptly - don't leave them at room temperature.
Food Safety & Storage
safety education offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension targets both
consumers and foodservice professionals. Our outreach to consumers, who
are concerned primarily with food safety in the home, includes
newspaper and newsletter articles, answering consumers' questions by
phone, public presentations, and distribution of information at public
events and gatherings.
Four Simple Steps to Food Safety
illness can strike anyone. Some people are at a higher risk for developing foodborne illness, including pregnant women, young children,
older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. For these
people the following four simple steps are critically important:
1. CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often
can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting
boards, utensils, countertops, and food. To prevent foodborne illness,
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds
before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing
diapers, and handling pets.
- Wash your cutting boards, dishes,
utensils, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each
food item and before you go on to the next food.
- Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a
clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.
2. SEPARATE: Don’t cross-contaminate
is how bacteria can be spread. When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood,
and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat
foods. Always start with a clean scene— wash hands with warm water and soap. Wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops, and utensils with hot
- Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in
your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, and in your refrigerator.
- Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.
3. COOK: Cook to proper temperatures
is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause illness. Refer to the chart for the
proper internal temperatures.
- Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods. Make sure that meat, poultry, egg dishes, casseroles, and other foods are cooked to the right internal temperature. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness.
- Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. Only use recipes in which eggs are cooked or heated thoroughly.
- When cooking in a microwave oven, cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking. Food is done when it reaches the correct internal temperature.
- Bring sauces, soups, and gravy to a boil when reheating.
4. CHILL: Refrigerate promptly
foods quickly because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Do not over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe. Keeping a constant refrigerator
temperature of 40ºF or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the temperature is consistently 40ºF or below. The freezer temperature should be 0ºF or below.
- Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, and other perishables as soon as you get them home from the store.
let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food, or cut fresh fruits or
vegetables sit at room temperature for more than two hours before putting
them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is
- Never defrost food at room temperature. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be
- Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
- Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
- Use or discard refrigerated food on a regular basis. Check USDA cold storage information for optimum storage times.
Last updated November 9, 2021