Wash hands and surfaces often
Separate your foods to prevent cross-contamination, in your cart and at home
Use separate cutting boards for meats and produce
Cook foods to the proper temperatures
Refrigerate foods promptly - don't leave them at room temperature.
Food Safety & Storage
Food safety education is offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension to
both consumers and food service professionals. For consumers, who are
concerned primarily with food safety in the home, CCE answers consumers'
questions by phone and email, gives public presentations, and
distributes information at public events and gatherings. For
professionals, we offer ServSafe Food Safety classes, please see
information at left.
Four Simple Steps to Food Safety
Foodborne 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
Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands,
cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food. To prevent foodborne
- 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 counter tops with hot
soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the
- 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.
- Rub 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
Cross-contamination 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 soapy water.
- 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
Food 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
Refrigerate 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.
- Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits
or vegetables sit at room temperature 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 cooked immediately.
- 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 24, 2019