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Consumer Information Center Keep Your Food Safe

Consumer Information Center: Keep Your Food Safe

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Food that goes bad can make you sick. This s called food poisoning. Sometimes when people think they have the "flu" or a "stomach bug," they really have food poisoning.

What makes foods go bad? Germs. They get on foods and grow. You cannot see germs on food. You cannot always smell taste them, either.

These are some of the foods germs like best:

  • Milk and other products
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Seafood

You can keep food safe. This booklet tells you how to: buy safe food and keep it safe at home.

Safe Food At the Store

Buy cans and jars that look perfect.

Do the cans have dents? Are the jars cracked? Do they have lids that are not closed tight? The food may have germs that can make you sick.

Check eggs, too. Open the carton and see if any eggs are broken or cracked.

Raw meat, poultry, and seafood sometimes drip. The juices that drip may have germs.

Keep these juices away from other foods, Put raw meat, poultry, and seafood into plastic bags before they go into the cart.

Pick up milk and other cold foods last. This will give them less time to warm up before you get home.

Save hot chicken and other hot foods for last, too. This will give them less time to cool off before you get home.

Safe Food At Home

After shopping, get home as soon as you can. Then put food into the refrigerator or freezer right away. Eggs always go in the refrigerator.

Make sure that you and your kitchen are clean.

Always wash your hands before you touch food. Use warm water and soap.

Wash everything else before and after it touches food.

Wood cutting boards are very hard to clean. Germs hide in the cracks. Use a plastic cutting board instead.

Fresh fruits and vegetables also need to be clean. Rinse them under running water to wash dirt away.

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Raw meat, raw poultry, and raw seafood can spread germs in your kitchen. keep these foods and their juices away from other foods.

Did you wipe up the juices with a dish towel? Wash it before you use it again.

Or, use paper towels and throw them away.

Meat, poultry, and seafood need to stay cold while they thaw. Thaw them: * In the refrigerator. Do it 1 or 2 days before you will cook the food.

* In the microwave. Use the "defrost" setting. Then cook the food right away.

Raw meat, raw poultry, raw seafood, and raw eggs can make you sick.

Cook them until they are done:

Cooked red meat looks brown inside. Poke cooked chicken with a fork. The juices should look clear, not pink.
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Dig a fork into cooked fish. The fish should flake. Cooked egg whites and yolks are firm, not runny.
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If food is left out for 2 or more hours, germs can grow.

So, put leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as you finish eating. Put them in shallow dishes so they cool faster.

Did you put leftovers in the refrigerator? Eat them in the next few days, before they go bad.

It is hard to tell if a food is safe. Foods that go bad may look, smell, and taste like other foods.

So be safe.

  • Buy safe food.
  • Keep food safe at home.

If you think a food might be bad, do not taste it. Remember this: When in doubt, throw it out!

Do you have questions about food safety?

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) may have an office near you. Look for their number in the blue pages of the phone book.

Or, write a letter to:

Rockville, MD 20857

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can also answer your food safety questions. You can call for FREE the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at:


The hotline is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday.

{short description of image} United States Department of Agriculture
{short description of image} Food Safety and Inspection Service
{short description of image} Department of Health and Human Services
{short description of image} Food and Drug Administration

DHHS Publication No.(FDA) 91-2234

February 1991

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