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What can you do to protect yourself and your family from food poisoning?

Following these simple steps can help keep your family safer from food poisoning at home.

Foodsafety.gov logo for "Clean"CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often.

Illness-causing bacteria can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards.

  • Wash hands the right way—for 20 seconds with soap and running water. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Wash surfaces and utensils after each use. Rinsing utensils, countertops, and cutting boards with water won’t do enough to stop bacteria from spreading. Clean utensils and small cutting boards with hot, soapy water. Clean surfaces and cutting boards with a bleach solution.
  • Wash fruits and veggies—but not meat, poultry, or eggs. Even if you plan to peel fruits and veggies, it’s important to wash them first because bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside as you cut or peel them.

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Foodsafety.gov logo for "Separate"SEPARATE: Don't cross-contaminate.

Even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.

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Foodsafety.gov logo for "Cook"COOK: Cook to the right temperature.

While many people think they can tell when food is “done” simply by checking its color and texture, there’s no way to be sure it’s safe without following a few important but simple steps.

  • Use a food thermometer. Make sure food reaches its safe minimum cooking temperature. For example, internal temperatures should be 145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating), 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry. Eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm.
  • During meal times, while food is being served and eaten, keep it hot (at 140 ˚F or above). After meals are over, refrigerate leftover food quickly.
  • Microwave food thoroughly (to 165 ˚F).

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Foodsafety.gov logo for "Chill"CHILL: Refrigerate promptly.

Illness-causing bacteria can grow in many foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them. (During the summer heat, cut that time down to one hour.)

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woman reporting foodborne illness on phoneREPORT: If you believe you or someone you know became ill from eating a certain food, please contact your local health department.

These health departments are an important part of the food safety system which rely on calls from concerned citizens. You can be an important part of discovering what foods made you and others sick.

  • If a public health official contacts you to find out more about an illness you had, your cooperation is important. Be willing to be interviewed about the foods you ate before you got sick; share your store receipts and give permission for stores to share the list of food you purchased from their store; and allow investigators to come to your home to collect any leftover food you may have.
  • In public health investigations, it can be as important to talk to healthy people as to ill people. Even if you are not ill, be willing to be interviewed about the foods you ate during a certain period of time.

For more information on preventing foodborne illnesses, please visit FoodSafety.gov, the federal gateway for food safety information.

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