Be Food Safe


Be Food Safe

The Fairfax County Health Department reminds you to BE FOOD SAFE. Food safety risks at home are more common than most people think. The four steps of CLEAN, SEPARATE, COOK and CHILL will help protect you and your family from foodborne illness.

Clean – Wash hands and surfaces to avoid spreading bacteria when preparing food. Wash hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, using the bathroom or coughing, sneezing or using a tissue. Dry with a paper towel or a clean towel. Run your cutting boards and utensils through the dishwasher or wash them in hot, soapy water each time you use them to prevent bacteria from spreading. Sponges are a breeding ground for foodborne bacteria. Consider using paper towels to reduce the risk of cross-contamination when cleaning kitchen surfaces. Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water. When using canned goods: remember to clean lids before opening.

Separate – Prevent cross-contamination. Keep raw meat and poultry apart from foods that won’t be cooked. Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator. Store raw meat, poultry and seafood in a container or on a plate in the refrigerator so juices won’t drip on other foods. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood. If you use just one cutting board, wash between uses with hot, soapy water. Never place cooked foods on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.

Cook – Use a food thermometer – you can’t tell if food is cooked safely by how it looks. Color is not a reliable indicator. Cook poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F; ground beef to 160°F; seafood to 145°F. Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. Use only recipes in which the eggs are cooked or heated to 160°F. Reheat all leftovers to 165°F. When cooking in a microwave oven, cover the food, stir and rotate for even cooking. Always allow standing time, which completes the cooking process.

Chill – Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Keeping your refrigerator at 40°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce risk of foodborne illness. Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood and other perishables within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. NEVER thaw food on the kitchen countertop. It is safe to thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in a microwave (cook immediately after thawing in the microwave). Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.

BE FOOD SAFE is a program developed and promoted by USDA and the Partnership for Food Safety Education. For more information about food safety in the home, call the Fairfax County Health Department’s Food Safety Section at 703-246-2444, TTY 771.


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