Food poisoning can occur when people eat food that is undercooked or has been contaminated with harmful bacteria. This can led to illness and can be especially serious and even life-threatening for young children, pregnant women and their fetuses, older adults, and people who have weakened immune systems. Follow these precautions when buying, storing, and preparing food to prevent food poisoning.
When you are shopping, preparing, or storing foods, keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish away from ready-to-eat foods in order to prevent cross-contamination with bacteria.
Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods within two hours after buying or preparing them. If the temperature in the room is above 90 F, perishable foods should be refrigerated within one hour.
Do not leave meat out at room temperature to thaw. The safest method is to allow food to defrost in the refrigerator. If you defrost meat in the microwave, cook it immediately.
Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling or preparing food. Wash utensils, cutting boards, and other surfaces you use with hot, soapy water.
One of the best ways to prevent food poisoning is to make sure your food is cooked to the appropriate internal temperature. This will kill most microorganisms. The best way to make sure meat is done is to check the temperature with a meat thermometer. Ground beef should be cooked to 160 F. Steaks, roasts, and chops (lamb, pork, veal) should be cooked to at least 145 F. Chicken and turkey should be cooked to 165 F. Cook fish and shellfish thoroughly.
If you are not sure if a food is safe, err on the side of caution and throw it out. Food that is left out at room temperature too long can have bacteria or other toxins that might not be killed by cooking. Don’t taste food to check it. Even if food looks and smells fine, it could be contaminated.
Young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems should avoid some foods to reduce their risk of developing food poisoning:
• Raw or rare meat or poultry
• Raw or undercooked fish or shellfish
• Raw or undercooked eggs or foods containing them
• Refrigerated pate or meat spread
• Uncooked hotdogs or lunch meat
• Raw alfalfa, bean, clover, or radish sprouts
• Unpasteurized juice or cider
• Unpasteurized milk or milk products
• Soft cheeses, such as Brie, feta, and Camembert; blue-veined cheese; or unpasteurized cheese