Health

How to keep your food safe

Updated 10:04 AM ET, Thu May 9, 2013
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people suffer from foodborne illnesses each year in the United States. Stay safe by following these steps outlined by the Food and Drug Administration: Photo Illustration/Thinkstock
Clean properly: Wash all produce thoroughly with water and/or a vinegar solution before eating. Make sure also to wash your hands and everything else that comes into contact with food. This includes kitchen utensils, cutting boards, countertops, tableware and cookware. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water for at least 20 seconds before touching food, after handling uncooked meat or produce, and after eating. Make sure you also wash your hands between preparing each type of food. Photo Illustration/Thinkstock
Separate your food: Keep uncooked food from contaminating other food with dangerous bacteria. Separate raw meat, poultry, fish and produce from one another and other foods. Use separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables, or thoroughly clean the cutting board before using it to prepare a different food. Photo Illustration/Thinkstock
Separate your utensils: Be careful not to use the same utensils to prepare different foods without first cleaning the utensils. Finally, don't use the same utensils or dishware for both uncooked and cooked food without cleaning them first. Photo Illustration/Thinkstock
Cook food properly: Keep food out of the danger zone by cooking it thoroughly. The danger zone is where germs thrive, between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you cook food to at least 140 degrees to kill harmful microorganisms. Photo Illustration/Thinkstock
Check the temperature: Check your food's internal temperature with a food thermometer, but be careful not to contaminate food with a dirty thermometer. Make sure you clean the thermometer as you check each item. A food thermometer is the only way to know if your food is cooked enough. Simply cooking meat until it turns brown may not be an accurate indication of whether your food contains harmful bacteria. If you plan to keep food warm after cooking, make sure the internal temperature doesn't drop below 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Photo Illustration/Thinkstock
Chill: Keep foods cold and chill leftovers quickly. Check your refrigerator with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to make sure the temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and make sure your freezer is 0 degrees or below. If you have leftovers or perishable foods, refrigerate or freeze them within two hours (only one hour if the surrounding temperature is above 90 degrees F). If you thaw frozen food, don't leave the food out at room temperature. Thaw the food in the refrigerator. If you need to thaw food quickly, place the food under cold running water or in the microwave. Then cook the food immediately. Photo Illustration/Thinkstock