Prepared by Pamela. Schmutz, HGIC Food Safety Specialist and Elizabeth Hoyle, Extension Food Safety Specialist, Clemson University. (New 01/99. Revised 06/11.)
Bacteria that contaminate food and cause foodborne illnesses are everywhere. Follow these four basic safety tips to keep your food safe.
Bacteria like Staphylococci are found on hair, skin, mouth, nose and throat. A cough or sneeze can transmit thousands of microorganisms that may cause disease. The best prevention is to keep yourself and your kitchen clean.
Keep Your Hands Clean: Wash your hands! Hands become the most potentially dangerous when seemingly innocent acts like scratching the scalp, running fingers through hair, or touching a pimple become the cause for contaminating foods. Follow the following steps to wash your hands:
Keep Counters & Equipment Clean: Wash counters and equipment with soap and water immediately after use. Sanitize with a chlorine solution of ¾ teaspoon liquid household bleach per quart of water, especially after contact with raw meats.
Use a bleach solution to sanitize the kitchen drain and disposal as well. Food particles get trapped and the moist environment is ideal for bacterial growth. Dishes and other utensils should be washed immediately in hot, soapy water and then air-dried, or cleaned in an automatic dishwasher.
Bacteria can live in kitchen towels, sponges and cloths. Wash kitchen towels and cloths regularly and always after using them to clean up raw meat juices, or use paper towels and throw them away. Wash kitchen cloths and towels in the hot cycle of the washing machine and dry them in the dryer before reusing them. Sanitize a non-metal kitchen sponge by heating it, while still wet, in a microwave oven for 1 to 1½ minutes. Avoid burns by allowing the sponge to cool before using it.
Keep Cutting Boards Clean: Whether using a wooden or plastic cutting board, it is important to keep it clean and to prevent cross-contamination after cutting raw meat, poultry and seafood. Non-porous surfaces are easier to clean than wood. It is best to keep one cutting board for fresh produce and bread and a separate one for raw meats. This will prevent bacteria on a cutting board that is used for raw meat, poultry or seafood from contaminating a food that requires no further cooking.
Wash All Cutting Boards Thoroughly: To keep all cutting boards clean wash them with hot, soapy water after each use, then rinse and air-dry or pat dry with fresh paper towels. Non-porous acrylic, plastic or glass boards and solid wood boards can be washed in an automatic dishwasher. Laminated boards may crack and split.
Sanitize Cutting Boards Occasionally: Both wooden and plastic cutting boards can be sanitized with a solution of ¾ teaspoon liquid chlorine bleach per quart of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes, then rinse and air dry or pat dry with fresh paper towels.
Replace Battered Cutting Boards: Even plastic boards wear out over time. Once cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, they should be discarded.
Cross-contamination is the transportation of harmful substances to food by:
Safely Store Perishable Foods: Refrigerate or freeze foods that will spoil at room temperature. Keep your refrigerator between 34 °F and 40 °F and your freezer temperature at or below 0 °F. The "Danger Zone" for most foods is between 40 °F and 140 °F. Bacteria grow most rapidly in this range of temperatures, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. Discard any perishable food left out at room temperature for more than two hours. See the table, "Recommended Times for Refrigerator and Freezer Storage" for specific storage suggestions.
Safely Thaw Foods: Thaw and marinate foods in the refrigerator, never on the counter. If thawed at room temperature, bacteria can grow in the outer layers of the food before the inside thaws. Proper thawing is essential to maintaining the safety, taste and texture of frozen foods. It affects the juiciness of meats, the texture and flavor of vegetables and fruits, and moisture level of baked goods.
|* Storage by this method is not recommended due to safety or quality issues|
|Fresh milk||5-7 days||*|
|Canned Milk (opened)||3-5 days||*|
|Yogurt, cottage cheese||7 days||*|
|Hard cheese||6-12 weeks||6-12 months|
|Cheese spreads||3-4 weeks||*|
|Ice cream||*||2 months|
|Fresh in shell||*||*|
|Beef roasts, steaks||3-5 days||6-12 month|
|Ground beef or stew||1-2 days||3-4 months|
|Pork roast, chops||3-5 days||4-6 months|
|Sausage||1-2 days||1-2 months|
|Chicken or turkey||1-2 days||9-12 months|
|Smoked Sausage, whole ham (fully cooked)||7 days||1-2 months|
|Ham slices (fully cooked)||3-4 days||1-2 months|
|Hotdogs, luncheon meats (unopened)||2 weeks||1-2 months|
|Hotdogs, luncheon meats (opened)||3-7 days||1-2 months|
|Leftover meat, cooked||3-4 days||2-3 months|
|Leftover gravy and meat broth||1-2 days||2-3 months|
|Leftover poultry, cooked||3-4 days||4-6 months|
|Fresh lean fish: cod, flounder, trout, haddock, halibut, pollack, perch||1-2 days||4-6 months|
|Fresh fatty fish: mullet, smelt, salmon, mackerel, bluefish, tuna, swordfish||1-2 days||2-3 months|
|Live crabs and lobster||same day purchased *||*|
|Live mussels and clams||2-3 days||*|
|Live oysters||7-10 days||*|
|Freshly shucked oysters||5-7 days||3-4 months|
|Scallops, shrimp, shucked mussels and clams||2-3 days||3-4 months|
|Fruits & Vegetables (Fresh)|
|Apples||1 month||8-12 months|
|Apricots, avocados, grapes, peaches, pears, plums||3-5 days||8-12 months|
|Berries, cherries||2-3 days||8-12 months|
|Grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges||2 weeks||4-6 months|
|Beets, carrots||2 weeks||8-12 months|
|Beans, broccoli, greens, peas, summer squash||3-5 days||8-12 months|
|Celery, cabbage, chilies, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes||1 week||8-12 months|
|Mushrooms||1-2 days||8-12 months|
|Chiffon pie, pumpkin pie||1-2 days||1 month|
|Fruit pie||1-2 days||1 year|
Using a thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and to determine the "doneness" of meat and egg dishes. To be safe, these foods must be cooked to an internal temperature high enough to destroy any harmful bacteria that may have been in the food. Color changes in meat are no longer considered reliable proof that all bacteria have been destroyed. Use the following minimum internal temperature chart to determine if foods have been cooked thoroughly.
These temperatures ensure that foodborne bacteria have been destroyed. For reasons of personal taste or texture preferences, consumers may choose to cook meat and poultry to higher temperatures.
|145 °F||Fish steaks or fillets. All cuts of beef, lamb, pork and veal. For both safety and quality, allow meat to rest for 4 minutes before carving or eating.|
|155 °F||Ground, mechanically tenderized or injected meats. Ground fish. Egg dishes.|
|165 °F||Poultry and wild game.
Stuffing and casseroles.
Divide large amounts of hot leftovers directly into small, shallow containers for quick cooling, and place directly in the refrigerator. Discard food that has been left standing at room temperature for more than two hours.
Date leftovers so they can be used within a safe time. Most foods remain safe when refrigerated for three to five days. If you will not be eating the leftovers within that time, freeze them for longer storage. If in doubt, throw it out rather than risk a foodborne illness. Never taste food that looks or smells strange to see if you can still use it. Even a small amount of contaminated food can cause illness.
For more information, request HGIC 3580, Cooking Meat Safely, HGIC 3587, Food Thermometers: A Key to Food Safety and HGIC 3495, Food Safety Mistakes You Do Not Want to Make.
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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.