Protect your family from foodborne illnesses

If you’ve ever eaten something that tasted a little funny and then felt sick a few hours later, you might have experienced food poisoning.

If you’ve ever eaten something that tasted a little funny and then felt sick a few hours later, you might have experienced food poisoning.

Food poisoning can happen when bacteria or other harmful organisms get into food or drinks. Symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea can start within a few hours after eating contaminated food. Two of the most publicized forms of food poisoning are caused by E. coli and salmonella bacteria, because they are typically linked to food manufacturers, which may lead to food recalls or widespread illness.

Most people with food poisoning recover in a couple of days with no lasting complications. However, medical treatment may be necessary in some cases. The most common complication of food poisoning is dehydration.

You should contact your physician if vomiting lasts for more than 12 hours, you experience diarrhea and have a fever higher than 101 degrees, or you have severe abdominal pain or a racing or pounding heart.

Protect your family from E. coli, salmonella and other foodborne illnesses by properly storing and preparing food and cleaning food preparation areas.


When buying food, shop for refrigerated items such as meat, dairy, eggs and fish last and keep meats separate from other items. Be sure to check expiration dates on all meats and fish and don’t purchase them if they look or smell funny. Don’t buy fruit with broken skin, unpasteurized ciders or juices, or prestuffed fresh turkeys or chickens.

Refrigerating and freezing food

Check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer before storing food. Your refrigerator should be set to 40 degrees and your freezer to 0 degrees. Maintaining these temperatures in your refrigerator and freezer will help prevent any bacteria in foods from multiplying. Here are some additional tips for storing items that need to be kept cold:

  • Keep eggs in the original carton and store on a shelf. Storing eggs in the refrigerator door won’t keep them cold enough.
  • Put meat, poultry and fish in separate plastic bags so their juices don’t leak onto other foods.
  • Freeze or cook ground meat, poultry, or fish within one to two days.
  • Freeze or cook meat cuts (such as steaks, chops and roasts) within three to five days.
  • Store raw meats in the freezer for no more than four months.
  • Store cooked meats in the freezer for no more than two to three months.

Food preparation

  • Wash all fruits and vegetables with plain running water to remove pesticide residue, dirt or bacteria.
  • Wash melons, such as cantaloupes and watermelons, before cutting them to avoid carrying bacteria from the rind to the knife to the inside of the fruit.
  • Remove the outer leaves of leafy greens.
  • Wash your hands with hot water and soap before preparing foods and after handling raw meat, chicken, eggs or fish.
  • Keep raw meats away from other foods in the refrigerator and on countertops.
  • Designate one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and fish.
  • Use separate utensils for cooking and serving raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs.
  • Never put cooked food on a dish that previously held raw meat, poultry or fish.
  • Thaw meat, poultry and fish in the refrigerator or microwave, never at room temperature.
  • Cook thawed meat, poultry and fish immediately.
  • Throw away any leftover meat, poultry or fish marinades.
  • To reduce the risk of salmonella infection, do not allow raw eggs to sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Never serve foods that contain raw eggs, such as uncooked cookie dough, homemade eggnog, some salad dressings, mousse and homemade ice cream. If you want to use these recipes, substitute pasteurized egg products for raw eggs.
  • Cook poultry and ground beef until juices run clear and it is no longer pink.
  • Use a meat thermometer to be sure meats are cooked properly. Recommendations for temperature of thoroughly cooked meats:
    • Poultry: 165 degrees
    • Whole cuts of beef, veal, pork or lamb: 145 degrees
    • Fish: 145 degrees
    • Egg dishes: 160 degrees
    • Leftovers: at least 165 degrees


To prevent the spread of bacteria, make sure your kitchen surfaces and hands are clean.

  • Refrigerate any leftovers as soon as possible after cooking.
  • Consume leftovers within three to four days or throw them away.
  • Wash your cutting boards — they can become a breeding ground for bacteria if not cleaned properly. Wash them separately from other dishes and utensils. You can sanitize them with a homemade cleaning solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water.
  • Don’t use old cutting boards that have cracks or deep gouges.
  • Wash your hands with hot water and soap whenever they come in contact with raw meat, poultry or fish.
  • Don’t use a dish towel to wipe your hands after handling raw meats. Use paper towels instead. Bacteria can contaminate cloth towels and then spread to others’ hands.
  • Wipe your kitchen counters and other surfaces used for food preparation with hot soapy water or a commercial or homemade cleaning solution. Cleaning surfaces with paper towels is better than using sponges or dish cloths, which are porous and attract bacteria.
  • Periodically sanitize your kitchen, sink, drain and garbage disposal by pouring in commercial or homemade cleaning solution.


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