Clean, Separate, Cook & Chill

September is National Food Safety Education Month. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from a foodborne illness each year. Most people with a foodborne illness, also called food poisoning, get better without medical treatment, but people with severe symptoms should see a doctor. You can read more about food poisoning symptoms here.

Enchilada Casserole

Enchilada Casserole

Three Guiding Stars iconThree Guiding Stars indicate the best nutritional value. Casseroles are great for meal prep, and a good example of a food to pay attention to chilling and reheating rules for.

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Although anyone can get food poisoning, some people are more at risk. Those groups include pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with immune systems weakened from medical conditions (e.g., diabetics, cancer patients). It’s especially important for these groups and their caregivers to follow safe food handling practices.

Here are 4 basic food safety principles from the CDC that we should all follow to reduce the risk of food poisoning:

Clean: wash your hands and surfaces often.

Germs that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen.

  • Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
  • Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.

Separate: don’t cross-contaminate.

Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.

  • Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • When grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the fridge.

Cook: to the right temperature.

Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer. You can’t tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture.

Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Here are safe minimum cooking temperatures:

  • Leftovers and casseroles: 165°F
  • All poultry, including ground: 165°F
  • Ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal: 160°F
  • Beef, pork, lamb, and veal chops, roasts and steaks: 145°F (let rest 3 minutes before serving)
  • Fish: 145°F

Chill: refrigerate properly.

  • Keep your refrigerator below 40°F and know when to throw food out.
  • Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. If outdoor temperature is above 90°F, refrigerate within 1 hour.
  • Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on the counter, because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.

Check out our food safety for leftovers lovers blog too.