Avoiding Foodborne Illnesses: Tips for Food Safety | RMHP Blog



Avoiding Foodborne Illnesses: Tips for Food Safety

Stay Healthy By Handling Food Properly


When eating healthily, you likely focus on filling your diet with fresh veggies and choosing wholesome, nutrient-rich foods for your meals. But, there’s an often-overlooked component to healthy eating: food safety.


To stay healthy and avoid foodborne illnesses, it’s important to handle and store food safely. Whether you need a quick refresher or are learning the ins and outs of food safety for the first time, here’s what you need to know.


Food safety fundamentals

Before we dive into details like optimum cooking temperatures for meat, let’s talk about three fundamentals of food safety.


  1. Keep it clean. Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and between handling different types of food.
  2. Keep it separated. Cross-contamination is one of the quickest ways to get hit with a foodborne illness. Use separate cutting boards and plates for uncooked produce, meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
  3. Keep it cool. Refrigerate perishable foods, including leftovers, within two hours. Bacteria can begin growing on foods within two hours under most circumstances and within one hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or higher.


Cooking food to the proper temperature

Your hands are clean and foods are separated, so now it’s time to get cooking. It’s often not enough to judge doneness of meats with a quick glance, so using a food thermometer is the safest way to ensure that meat, poultry, and other dishes are cooked thoroughly enough to destroy harmful bacteria.


Once you have your thermometer, here are the minimum temperatures to aim for in meats and poultry:

Ground Beef: 160°F

Beef, Veal, Lamb: 160-170°F

Ground Chicken or Turkey: 165°F

Chicken and Turkey Breasts: 170°F

Chicken or Turkey (legs, thighs, and wings): 180°F

Pork: 160°F


Meat isn’t the only type of food that should be cooked to the proper bacteria-destroying temperature, as this list from FoodSafety.gov shows. The list also details the necessary rest times for different foods, since it can take several minutes for this important last step to kill off germs.


Additional food safety measures to remember

Washing your hands, cooking foods to the recommended temperature, and proper refrigeration will go a long way in keeping the food you and your family eats safe. But, those aren’t the only things you should be doing:

  • After cooking, keep hot food hot. Bacteria can thrive as food cools, so use chafing dishes, warming trays, and slow cookers to keep food hot.
  • Thaw food in the refrigerator, not on the countertop or in the sink.
  • Sanitize cutting boards and other food prep tools using hot, soapy water after use. You can also clean cutting boards with a diluted bleach solution (2/3 cup of bleach in one gallon of water, which you can easily store in a spray bottle for repeated use).

If you aren’t using a food thermometer, these visual tests will help test doneness: Steam rising from the food; firm egg yolks and opaque egg whites; clear juices when you cut into meat and poultry; white insides on pork, veal, and poultry; opaque shellfish, and; fish that flakes easily with a fork.