It’s Worldwide Food Safety Month! Keep yourself and your loved ones happy and healthy this month by following these tips to prevent illness.

Meal Preparation

Preparing food safely is the key to preventing illness. Follow these rules and stay safe while cooking:

According to the USDA, prior to preparing food, your hands should be washed for 20 seconds with soap and warm water. This will prevent the spread of germs and bacteria into your food. Also make sure to wash the surfaces you will be using to cook. Rewash both your hands and surfaces periodically while cooking and any time they come into contact with raw meat or eggs.

Before cutting and preparing fruits and vegetables, always be sure to wash them to get rid of any lingering dirt, bacteria, or chemical pesticides they may have been exposed to before reaching your kitchen. If the produce is firm, you can use a scrub brush to clean the outside of it. Use warm water to clean produce.

When cutting fruits, vegetables, and meat, be sure to keep them separate. Raw meat can carry harmful bacteria. If you don’t plan to cook your vegetables or fruit, be sure to use different cutting boards and utensils so cross-contamination does not occur.

If you thaw or marinate meat in the refrigerator, be sure they are covered and make sure no juices spill onto other food. Food that is thawed in cold water or in the microwave needs to be cooked immediately after thawing.

Make sure your meat is cooked to the correct temperature! Raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal need to be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145˚ F. When these meats are ground they should have a minimum internal temperature of 160˚ F. All poultry needs to be cooked to at least 165˚ F.  Undercooked meat can still contain bacteria and cause illness.

When serving food, keep hot food hot and cold food cold. This will stop bacteria from growing on the food. Hot food should be kept above 90˚ F, and cold food should be kept below 40˚ F.

Food Storage

Did you buy too much food or have leftovers? Here’s how to properly store them:

After everyone has finished eating, food should be stored promptly. Cooked food left at room temperature for more than two hours should be thrown away to prevent potential illness.

If you want to store cooked food in the fridge, do so for no more than four days to prevent the build up of bacteria. Storing cooked food in the freezer increases the longevity of it. Food can be frozen indefinitely and be safe to eat, but the quality of the food can diminish. Make sure to check it out before consuming. This chart can help you determine how long it is safe to consume food after storing.

Don’t just practice food safety this month! Use these tips year-round to keep your family healthy. For more food safety tips, check out resources from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics  and the USDA.

Happy Worldwide Food Safety Month!