Food Safety Education Month

By Megan Bailey, Health Educator

School has started, and before we know it, the holidays won’t be far away! With the holidays come big dinners and parties. This makes September a great time to celebrate Food Safety Education Month and brush up on our food illness prevention tips before the holiday celebrations!

The key to preventing foodborne illness at home is to avoid cross-contamination. Separating raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from ready-to-eat foods and cooked foods can help prevent illness.

Germs such as Campylobacter, Clostridium, Salmonella, and E. coli can spread from raw foods to ready-to-eat and cooked foods; these germs can make you sick and maybe even land you in the hospital if serious.

There are four easy steps that you can follow at home that can protect you and your loved ones from foodborne illness:

Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often.

• Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.

o Always wash your hands after handling uncooked meat, poultry, seafood, flour, or eggs.

• Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.

• Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables. Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate.

• Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods while grocery shopping.

• Keep raw or marinating meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods in the refrigerator.

• When storing raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs in the refrigerator, keep them in sealed containers or packages.

• Use separate cutting boards or plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Use another cutting board or plate for produce, bread, and other foods that won’t be cooked.

• Do NOT wash raw meat, poultry, or eggs. This can actually spread germs!

Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature.

• Use a food thermometer to make sure that foods are cooked to a safe inside temperature that will kill the germs that make you sick.

o Whole cuts of beef, veal, lamb, and pork, including fresh ham: 145F.

o Fish with fins: 145F or cook until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.

o Ground meats, such as beef or pork: 160F.

o All poultry: 165F.

o Leftovers and casseroles: 165F.

Chill: Refrigerate promptly.

Germs can multiply fast if left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone,” which is between 40F and 140F.

• Keep your refrigerator at or below 40F and your freezer at or below 0F.

o If your refrigerator doesn’t have a built-in thermometer, keep an appliance thermometer inside it to check the temperature.

• Package warm or hot foods into several clean, thin containers and then refrigerate.

• Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours; if the food is exposed to temperatures above 90F, then refrigerate within one hour.

• Thaw frozen foods safely in the refrigerator, cold water, or microwave. Never thaw food on the counter because this allows germs to spread!

This September, spread awareness, not germs! For more information on Food Safety Education Month, go to

By Megan Bailey, Health Educator