- Clean: Wash hands and food-contact surfaces often. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges, and counter tops.
- Separate: Don't cross-contaminate: Don't let bacteria spread from one food product to another. This is especially true for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Experts caution to keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook: Cook to a safe internal temperature. Foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of foods.
- Chill: Refrigerate promptly to keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The accuracy of the settings should be checked occasionally with a thermometer.
Be careful to keep your foods chilled properly. Keep these foods refrigerated:
- Cream pies, cakes with whipped-cream and cream cheese frostings, and other creamy desserts.
- Cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, seafood, or dairy products. Quiches and soufflés, especially if you aren't serving them immediately.
Tips for Fresh Produce
For many families, salads, vegetable dishes and fruit are an important part of holiday meals and entertaining.
- Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.
- When selecting fresh cut produce—such as a half a watermelon or bagged mixed salad greens—choose only those items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
- Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood when packing them to take home from the market.
- Certain perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) can be best maintained by storing in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below. If you aren’t sure whether an item should be refrigerated to maintain quality, ask your grocer.
- All produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled should be refrigerated within two hours to maintain both quality and safety.
- Begin preparing produce with clean hands. Wash hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
- Many precut, bagged produce items like lettuce are pre-washed. If so, it will be stated on the packaging. This pre-washed, bagged produce can be used without further washing. As an extra measure of caution, you can wash the produce again just before you use it. Precut or pre-washed produce in open bags should be washed before using.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded.
- All unpackaged fruits and vegetables, as well as those packaged and not marked pre-washed, should be thoroughly washed before eating. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or produce from a grocery store or farmer's market. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking.
- Even if the produce will be peeled before eating, it is still important to wash it first.
- Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended.
- Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush under running water.
- Drying produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.
Separate for Safety
Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood - and from kitchen utensils used for those products.
In addition, be sure to wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot water and soap between the preparation of raw meat, poultry and seafood products and the preparation of produce that will not be cooked.
- For added protection, kitchen sanitizers can be used on cutting boards and counter tops periodically. Try a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach to one quart of water.
- If plastic or other non-porous cutting boards are used, run them through the dishwasher after use.
FDA advises consumers not to eat uncooked cookie dough, homemade or commercial, or batters made with raw fresh eggs because raw fresh eggs may contain bacteria that can cause an intestinal infection called salmonellosis. Thorough cooking kills the bacteria that cause the infection. If any holiday recipes call for raw or lightly-cooked eggs, you can:
- Use store-bought products of the foods listed above, which are often already cooked or pasteurized (but check the label to be sure).
- Purchase pasteurized eggs. These eggs are heat-processed to kill harmful bacteria. They can be found in some supermarkets and are labeled "pasteurized." Here are several types consumers can buy:
- Pasteurized eggs in the shell (found in the refrigerator section).
- Liquid, pasteurized egg products (found in the baking section).