Food safety refers to the conditions and practices that preserve the quality of food to prevent contamination and foodborne illnesses.
Food - hygiene and sanitation
Food can be contaminated in many different ways. Some food products may already contain bacteria or parasites. These germs can be spread during the packaging process if the food products are not handled properly. Improperly cooking or storing food can also cause contamination.
Properly handling, storing, and preparing food greatly reduces the risk of getting foodborne illnesses.
All foods can become contaminated. Higher risk foods include red meats, poultry, eggs, cheese, dairy products, raw sprouts, and raw fish or shellfish.
Poor food safety practices can cause infection from a foodborne illness. Symptoms of foodborne illnesses vary, but they usually include stomach problems. Foodborne illnesses may be severe and life-threatening, especially in young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people who have a weakened immune system.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling any food.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
- Wash your hands after touching animals.
- Wash all cutting boards and utensils with hot water and soap after preparing each food item and before moving on to the next food item.
- If your hands have any cuts or sores, wear gloves suitable for handling food or avoid preparing food.
- Avoid cross-contaminating food items. Separate meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods during preparation. Always wash your hands, utensils, and cutting board after they come into contact with these products.
- Cook food to the correct temperature. Red meats should be cooked to reach an internal temperature of 160°F. Poultry should reach an internal temperature of 180°F. Reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of least 165°F. Cook eggs until the white and yolk are firm. Fish should have an opaque appearance and flake easily.
- Refrigerate or freeze food promptly. Some foods, such as meat and poultry, must be frozen if they are not used within 1 to 2 days. Leftovers should be refrigerated within 2 hours of serving. Keep frozen foods in the freezer until they are ready to be thawed and cooked.
- Food can also be contaminated before it is purchased. Watch for and do not buy or use outdated food, packaged food with a broken seal, or cans that have a bulge or dent. Do not use foods that have an unusual odor or appearance, or a spoiled taste.
- Prepare home-canned foods in clean conditions and be very careful during the canning process. Home-canned foods are the most common cause of botulism.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Food safety. Accessed May 3, 2014. Available at: http://www.foodsafety.gov/.
Reviewed By:Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency
or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional
should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911
for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they
do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.
Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.