Food Safety

General Tips on Good Food Safety Practices from the Grocery Store to your Table

The following is information obtained from the USDA Food Safety website. For more details on Food Safety you can visit their website at www.fsis.usda.gov

Shopping
  • Purchase refrigerated or frozen items after selecting your nonperishables.
  • Never choose meat or poultry in packaging that is torn or leaking.
  • Do not buy food past “Sell-By,” “Use-By,” or other expiration dates.
Storage
  • Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).
  • Check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer with an appliance thermometer. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F or below and the freezer at 0 °F or below.
  • Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within 2 days; other beef, veal, lamb, or pork, within 3 to 5 days.
  • Perishable food such as meat and poultry should be wrapped securely to maintain quality and to prevent meat juices from getting onto other food.
  • To maintain quality when freezing meat and poultry in its original package, wrap the package again with foil or plastic wrap that is recommended for the freezer.
  • In general, high-acid canned food such as tomatoes, grapefruit, and pineapple can be stored unopened on the shelf for 12 to 18 months. Low-acid canned food such as meat, poultry, fish, and most vegetables will keep 2 to 5 years-if the unopened can remains in good condition and has been stored in a cool, clean, and dry place. Discard cans that are dented, leaking, bulging, or rusted.
Thawing
  • Refrigerator—The refrigerator allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing meat and poultry juices do not drip onto other food.
  • Cold Water—For faster thawing, place food in a leak-proof plastic bag. Submerge in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately after thawing.
  • Microwave—Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwave thawing.
Preparation
  • Always wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot, soapy water.
  • Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
  • Sanitize cutting boards by using a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water.
Cooking

Cook foods to the recommended safe minimum internal temperatures listed below. Check temperatures with a food thermometer. Learn more about using food thermometers on the FSIS Web site or by calling the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline.

Serving
  • Hot food should be held at 140 °F or warmer.
  • Cold food should be held at 40 °F or colder.
  • When serving food at a buffet, keep hot food hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Keep cold food cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice or use small serving trays and replace them often.
  • Use a food thermometer to check hot and cold holding temperatures.
  • Perishable food should not be left out more than 2 hours at room temperature (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).
Leftovers
  • Discard any food left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature was above 90 °F).
  • Place food into shallow containers and immediately put in the refrigerator or freezer for rapid cooling.
  • Use most cooked leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
Refreezing

Meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator may be refrozen before or after cooking. If thawed by other methods, cook before refreezing.

Other Tips

What “Use-By” and “Sell-By” Labels Really mean

  • Use-By: Food is no longer acceptable for consumption and should not be purchased or used after the given date.
  • Date of Pak or Manufacture: The date refers to when the food was packed or processed for sale. Freeze food that will not be used within 3 to 5 days of purchase.
  • Freshness, Pull-or Sell-By: This refers to the last day that a particular food should be sold, but can be safely used for 1 week past the “Sell-By” date (i.e. dairy and fresh bakery products).
  • Use before or Best if Used By: This refers to the date at which food may begin to lose quality but can still be used safely (i.e. frozen foods, cereals, canned food, pasta, rice).