Food Safety Education for the Family

Many children and families today have busy schedules. This makes it hard to stop and have a serious conversation about diet, nutrition, and food safety – in order to live a healthy life and avoid illness or disease.

Have a conversation about food safety with you children – no matter the age. Basic discussion topics can make a big difference in understanding and preventing a food illness.

Follow basic food safety principles and procedures to help keep you and your family safe.

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Take a little bit of time to learn more about food safety – whether you’re cooking and eating at home, outside the house, or on the go.

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FDA Video: Food Safety in Seconds

Food Safety Steps: Clean – Separate – Cook – Chill

Bacteria that contaminate food and cause foodborne illnesses are everywhere. Follow these basic safety tips to keep you safe.

  • Clean. Wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate. Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood, and their juices, away from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook. Raw meat, poultry, seafood and egg products need to be cooked to the right temperature. Use a food thermometer to ensure foods have reached a high enough temperature to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present.
  • Chill. Refrigerate food promptly. Do not leave food at room temperature for more than two hours, or one hour when the outside temperature is above 90°F (32.2°C).


Wash your hands often, especially during these key times when germs can spread.

Follow the five steps below to wash your hands the right way every time:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Keep kitchen surfaces clean by washing counters, cutting boards and equipment with soap and water immediately after use. Sanitize with a chlorine solution of 1 teaspoon liquid household bleach per quart of water, especially after contact with raw meats.

Food Safety - Washing Hands
Credit: Twitter - FDA Food


Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce, meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs to prevent cross-contamination:

  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce or other foods that won’t be cooked before they’re eaten, and another for raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Replace them when they are worn.
  • Use separate plates and utensils for cooked and raw foods.
  • Wash thoroughly all plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touched raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs before using them again. Use hot, soapy water.
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Using a thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and to determine that meat and egg dishes are cooked thoroughly. 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 temperature chart on the last page to determine if foods have been cooked thoroughly.

FDA: Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures

Download Table as PDF


Food Type Internal Temperature (°F)
Ground meat and meat mixtures Beef, pork, veal, lamb 160
Turkey, chicken 165
Fresh beef, veal, lamb Steaks, roasts, chops
Rest time: 3 minutes
Poultry All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing) 165
Pork and ham Fresh pork, including fresh ham
Rest time: 3 minutes
Precooked ham (to reheat)
Note: Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140°F
Eggs and egg dishes Eggs Cook until yolk and white are firm
Egg dishes (such as frittata, quiche) 160
Leftovers and casseroles Leftovers and casseroles 165
Seafood Fish with fins 145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork
Shrimp, lobster, crab, and scallops Cook until flesh is pearly or white, and opaque
Clams, oysters, mussels Cook until shells open during cooking
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Bacteria “Danger Zone”

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.



Place leftovers in shallow containers and store them in a cooler immediately. Discard food left in the Danger Zone for more than two hours. When the outside temperature is 90°F or above this time reduces to just one hour.

Food Storage Times for the Refrigerator & Freezer

Food Refrigerator Freezer
Note: Foods kept in the freezer longer than recommended are safe, but their quality may not be as good.
Bacon (opened) 5-7 days Not recommended
Bacon (unopened) 2 weeks 1 month
Beef roasts & steaks, raw 3-5 days 6-12 months
Cheese – hard types 6-12 weeks 6-12 months
Cheese spreads 3-4 weeks Not recommended
Deli-sliced luncheon meats 3-5 days 1-2 months
Eggs – fresh in shell 3-5 weeks Not recommended
Eggs – hard-cooked 1 week Not recommended
Egg, tuna and macaroni salads 3-5 days Salads made with mayonnaise do not freeze well.
Gravy and meat broth 1-2 days 2-3 months
Ground beef & stew meat, raw 1-2 days 3-4 months
Ham slices (fully cooked) 3-4 days 1-2 months
Hotdogs and luncheon meats (unopened) 2 weeks 1-2 months
Hotdogs, luncheon meats (opened) 3-7 days 1-2 months
Ice cream 2 months
Meat (cooked) 3-4 days 2-3 months
Milk (fresh) 5-7 days Not recommended
Pizza 3-4 days 4-6 months
Pork roasts & chops, raw 3-5 days 4-6 months
Poultry (cooked) 3-4 days 4-6 months
Poultry (raw) 1-2 days 9-12 months
Salad dressings (opened) 3 months Not recommended
Soup – meat added 1-2 days 2-3 months
Soup – vegetable 3-4 days 2-3 months
Yogurt 7 days Not recommended
Fruits (fresh):
Apples 3 weeks Fruits may need ascorbic acid to prevent browning when frozen, and the addition of sugar for best quality. Store in freezer containers.
Grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges 2 weeks
Melons 1 week
Grapes, peaches, pears, plums 3-5 days
Berries, cherries 2-3 days
Vegetables (fresh):
Carrots 2 weeks Most vegetables need to be blanched or cooked before freezing to maintain quality.
Celery, cabbage, chilies, lettuce head (unwashed), peppers, tomatoes 1 week
Beans, broccoli, greens, peas, summer squash 3-5 days
Mushrooms, okra 1-2 days

Food Illness Symptoms

The symptoms of foodborne illness often come on quickly, usually within hours to a day and can last for up to a few days.

Typical symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • chills
  • fever
  • muscle pain
  • dehydration
  • bloody stool

In some cases, foodborne illness can lead to serious conditions. Children younger than 5 years of age, adults aged 65 and older, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women are more likely to develop a serious illness.

Call or see the doctor if you or someone in your care has serious symptoms.

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Additional Food Safety Resources