1. Take food safety seriously. An estimated 76 million people per year become ill from harmful bacteria in food according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Looks can be deceiving. You can’t tell if food is done just by looking at it. Use a food thermometer to be sure.
  3. Know the USDA guidelines for safely cooking meat, poultry and fish. Visit the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service for more information.
  4. Always clean your food thermometer and cutting boards with hot, soapy water before and after each use.
  5. To measure the internal temperature of food, place the food thermometer in the thickest part and make sure it is not touching bone, fat or gristle.
  6. Familiarize yourself with the types of cooking thermometers available. Click here for more information.
  7. Keep your hands clean. Wash with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  8. Wash fruits and vegetables with cold water before using. You do not need to wash meat, poultry or seafood.
  9. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods separate when shopping, preparing and storing food. If you place raw meat, poultry or seafood on a plate, be sure to wash the plate thoroughly before placing cooked food on it.
  10. Always thaw foods in the refrigerator; never at room temperature. Allow about 24 hours for every 5 pounds.
  11. If you are planning to cook a fresh turkey, buy it just one to two days ahead, and refrigerate on a tray until you’re ready to cook it. Do not buy fresh pre-stuffed turkeys.
  12. When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the coals are lightly coated with ash. Use a food thermometer to ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature.
  13. Your refrigerator should be 40°F/4°C or below for safe food storage. Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the temperature is right.
  14. Perishable food, whether homemade or take-out, should never be left out of the refrigerator or freezer for more than 2 hours. In hot weather – above 90°F/32°C – return items to the refrigerator after one hour. When in doubt, throw it out.
  15. Use shallow containers to store cooked foods in the refrigerator or freezer to encourage rapid, even cooling.
  16. When you reheat dishes containing meat or poultry, use a food thermometer to verify an internal temperature of at least 165°F/74°C.
  17. If you are reheating sauces, soups or gravies, always heat them to a boil before eating.
  18. If you are reheating food in a microwave, cover it, stir it, and turn the dish once or twice for even cooking. This will eliminate cold spots that could harbor harmful bacteria.
  19. Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, and never pour sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry onto cooked food. Used marinade must be boiled before eating.
  20. Keep your kitchen clean. Clean and sanitize surfaces. Wash dishcloths and towels often using the hot water cycle in your washing machine, and then dry thoroughly in the dryer. Disinfect dishcloths often. Clean your refrigerator weekly with hot, soapy water. Clean your kitchen sink and disposal once or twice a week.
  21. When you eat out, make sure the restaurant looks clean. Always order your food fully cooked. Do not eat oysters or eggs that are raw or not fully cooked.
  22. When packing a lunch with perishable products in the morning, remember that freezer gel packs will keep foods cold until lunchtime, but are not recommended for all-day storage.
  23. To pack a safe lunch, use an insulated bottle for hot foods such as soup, chili or stew. First, fill the bottle with water and let stand for a few minutes. Then empty the bottle and fill with piping hot food. Keep the bottle closed until lunchtime.
  24. Teach children about food safety. You’ll find a variety of games and puzzles related to food safety at USDA Food Safety Education for Kids & Teens.
  25. You’ll find a wealth of food safety information on the web: