You read labels, buy fresh foods, and do your best to prepare tasty meals for your family. But one thing that might not cross your mind as you cook is food safety.
Why is food safety so important? Proper food preparation protects against foodborne illnesses from bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria (which can cause diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and dehydration).
Safety precautions include knowing how to select foods in the grocery store, then storing them properly and cooking them safely, plus cleaning up well afterward.
Here's how to make sure your kitchen and the foods you prepare in it are safe.
Buying safe food is the first step. To ensure freshness, refrigerated items (such as meat, dairy, eggs, and fish) should be put in your cart last. Keep meats separate from other items, especially produce. If your drive home is longer than 1 hour, consider putting these items in a cooler to keep them fresh.
When purchasing packaged meat, poultry, or fish, check the expiration date on the label. Even if the expiration date is still acceptable, don't buy fish or meats that smell or look strange.
Also check inside egg cartons — make sure the eggs, which should be grade A or AA, are clean and free from cracks.
Before you put the groceries away, check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer. Your refrigerator should be set for 40ºF (5ºC) and your freezer should be set to 0ºF (-18ºC) or lower. These chilly temperatures will help keep any bacteria in your foods from multiplying. If your refrigerator doesn't have a thermostat, it's a good idea to invest in a thermometer for the fridge and freezer.
Of course, refrigerated and frozen items should be put away first. Here are some quick tips to remember for foods that need to be kept cool:
Follow these handling and cooking guidelines to help prevent foodborne illnesses in your family:
Use a meat thermometer to tell whether meats are cooked thoroughly. (Place the thermometer in the thickest portion of the meat and away from bones or fat and wash the probe between uses.) Most thermometers indicate at which temperature the type of meat is safely cooked, or you can refer to these recommendations:
When cooking, broiling, or grilling meats on the stove, turn them over at least once. In the microwave, cover all meats and:
Clean food is just one part of the food safety equation. You also need to be sure that your kitchen surfaces and your hands are clean to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Taking these simple precautions can reduce the chance of foodborne illnesses in your family.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: November 2014
|National Safety Council The National Safety Council offers information on first aid, CPR, environmental health, and safety.|
|U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) The USDA works to enhance the quality of life for people by supporting the production of agriculture.|
|Hand Washing Did you know that the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands? If you don't wash your hands frequently, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself.|
|E. Coli Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection marked by severe diarrhea. Here's how to protect your family.|
|Campylobacter Infections These bacterial infections can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. Good hand-washing and food safety habits can prevent them.|
|Botulism Botulism is a rare kind of food poisoning. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Food Poisoning The germs that get into food and cause food poisoning are tiny, but can have a powerful effect on the body. Find out what to do if you get food poisoning - and how to prevent it.|
|Food Poisoning Sometimes, germs can get into food and cause food poisoning. Find out what to do if your child gets food poisoning - and how to prevent it.|
|Food Poisoning Did you ever eat something that made you feel ooky? It might have been food poisoning.|
|Gastrointestinal Infections and Diarrhea Nearly everybody gets diarrhea every once in a while, and it's usually caused by gastrointestinal infections. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Read this article to learn more.|
|Being Safe in the Kitchen Cooking and baking are lots of fun - as long as you stay safe. Read this article for safety tips before you head into the kitchen.|
|Why Is Hand Washing So Important? Did you know that proper hand washing is the best way to keep from getting sick? Here's how to teach this all-important habit to your kids.|
|E. Coli Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection and severe diarrhea. Here's how to protect yourself.|
|The 5-Second Rule Almost everyone has dropped food on the floor and still wanted to eat it. Does the 5-second rule give you the excuse you need? Or is it just a myth?|
|Why Should I Care About Germs? Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease - and they're so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. Find out how to protect yourself.|
|Belly Pain Ugh. Bellyaches. Find out what causes tummy trouble in this article for kids.|
|Is It Safe to Eat Food That's Dropped to the Floor? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Why Do I Need to Wash My Hands? Washing your hands is the best way to stop germs from spreading. Learn all about the best way to wash your hands in this article for kids.|
|Salmonella Infections Salmonellosis is a foodborne illness caused by the bacteria salmonella. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and headache.|
|Produce Precautions Kids need daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Here's how to make sure the produce you buy and prepare is safe.|
|Staying Healthy While You Travel When you're traveling with your kids, there's a chance that someone might get sick. But early planning and smart packing can help ensure your family stays healthy and safe.|
|Food Safety Learn why food safety is important and how you can avoid the spread of bacteria when you are buying, preparing, and storing food.|
|E. Coli E. coli is a common type of bacteria that can make you pretty sick. Read more in this article for kids.|
|What Are Germs? You know they can hurt you, but what are these invisible creatures? Find out in this article for kids.|
|The 5-Second Rule Did you ever eat something off the floor? Uh-oh. Time to read this article for kids about the 5-second rule.|
|Vomiting Most vomiting is caused by gastroenteritis, and usually isn't serious. These home-care tips can help prevent dehydration.|
|Diarrhea Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it's important to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.