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4 Steps to Keep Food Safe in the Home

Causes of Foodborne Illness

Harmful bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning, but other causes include viruses, parasites, toxins, and contaminants.
 

Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

If you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, you may have a foodborne illness.
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea (sometimes bloody or watery)
  • Fever
  • Headache

Prevention of Foodborne Illness

You can help prevent food poisoning from bacteria and viruses by following four simple steps when preparing food. These four basic safe food handling behaviors are:  clean, separate, cook, and chill. Learn more about each of these steps:
 
Clean
Wash hands and surfaces often. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, and food. Regularly washing hands and surfaces can help prevent bacteria from spreading. Do not handle food that is ready to eat with your bare hands.

Download the Clean factsheet here (PDF)
 
Separate
Don’t cross-contaminate. Bacteria often can be spread from one thing to another when foods are not separated. Keep all prepared foods separated from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs; even in the grocery cart, bag and refrigerator. Use different cutting boards for meat, poultry, seafood, and veggies.

Download the Separate factsheet here (PDF)
 
Cook
Cook food to the proper temperature. Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill bacteria that cause illness. Use a food thermometer to measure internal temperatures of cooked foods.

Download the Cook factsheet here (PDF)
 
Chill
Refrigerate promptly. Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures will slow down the growth of harmful bacteria. Always be sure to thaw all perishable food in the refrigerator, the microwave, or in cold water. Keep the fridge at 40 °F or below to keep bacteria from growing.

Download the Chill factsheet here (PDF)

Learn more about these four basic steps for food safety.