Food Safety Tips

A chef preparing a salad dish for a customer in his trendy burger restaurant.
Considering the number of bacteria found in raw meats and unwashed foods, everyone should be more mindful of food preparation habits in the kitchen. Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images

If you're like most people, you probably don't think too much about the safety of your food. But considering the amount of bacteria found in raw meats and unwashed foods, everyone should be more mindful about food preparation habits in the kitchen.

By following these food safety tips, you can learn how to prevent minor and serious illnesses that would definitely put a damper on your event or party.


Take a look at the following links to learn important food safety tips:

How to Prevent Salmonella

Salmonella, one of the leading causes of food poisoning, can be easily prevented. Learn how.

Tailgating Safety Tips

Keep your next tailgating party fun and safe with these easy food safety tips.

Can Salmonella Get in Eggnog?

No need to turn to substitutes! Learn how to keep your holiday eggnog safe and fresh.

Picnic Food Safety Tips

Taking your meal outdoors is easy and safe if you follow these simple food safety tips.

Salmonella prevention is a big part of food safety and there is nothing difficult about it. Find out how to prevent salmonella on the next page of this article.

To learn more about food safety, check out these articles:


How to Prevent Salmonella

Handle eggs with care, since they can carry salmonella.

Q. After I've cooked with chicken, how can I tell whether I've cleaned my counter tops, cutting board and utensils well enough to prevent bacterial contamination?

A. Although salmonella bacteria is found on most chicken sold in this country, it is seldom implicated in salmonella outbreaks. (Eggs seem to be a more common source of outbreaks, according to federal government records.) This is because cooking chicken to 180°F kills the bacteria.

However, it is still imperative to clean up well after handling raw poultry. We checked with four government sources on food safety -- the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institutes of Health, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, and a state extension office -- and each gave the same information:


  1. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from other foods in your grocery shopping cart.
  2. Use plastic or other nonporous (not wood) cutting boards, and wash them in the dishwasher or in hot soapy water after each use. Use a different cutting board for raw meat products than you use for other foods.
  3. Wash your hands, cutting boards, dishes, utensils, sink, counter tops -- anything that was touched by the food -- in hot soapy water. Use paper towels and discard after use, or, if you use cloth towels, don't use them for another purpose until they've been washed in the hot cycle of your washing machine. Sponges can hold bacteria, so clean them well in hot soapy water and change them often.
  4. Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

Many people use antibacterial soaps, but at least two expert organizations-the American Medical Association and the CDC-have been quoted as calling antibacterial soaps "overkill." Regular soap is sufficient.

From chicken safety in the kitchen, to barbecue chicken safety in the parking lot. Celebrate your favorite football team with food, and learn what you can do to make tailgating safe in the next article.

To learn more about food safety, check out these articles:


Tailgating Safety Tips

Check out these tips for fun and safe tailgating.
Publications International, Ltd.

College football season brings the haze of portable grill smoke over parking lots, the delicious aroma of barbecued foods, and the sharing of a variety of beverages.

Folks who gather in parking lots across America understand the age old tradition of tailgating, the uniquely American tradition of backyard-to-parking-lot grilling and socializing.


But with an outdoor kitchen comes outdoor food safety concerns, and tailgating food safety is critical to ensure the health of those attending.

What is Tailgating?

"Tailgating" literally means serving food and drink from the tailgate of a car or truck. The tradition is spreading, and parking-lot parties increase in number and size each year.

Today, tailgating goes something like this: Pre-game activities commence early as people of all ages scramble to claim their turf. Tents and tables go up, grills are lit, and folks socialize and toss footballs while the teasing scent of barbecue permeates the area. Music, laughter, and festivities also ensue as fans prepare for kickoff.

How to Tailgate Safely

The only thing guaranteed to spoil everyone's fun is spoiled food. Here are some tips to ensure you can safely enjoy tailgating.

  • Temperature: To prevent any potential problems, you'll need to keep all food at safe temperatures, whether prepared in advance or cooked on site. Generally, preparing most foods at home is a good idea, but if you're going to cook foods in advance, cook them thoroughly. Partial cooking doubles the risk of unwanted bacteria. Bacteria grow most quickly at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. So, cold foods must be held below 40°F, while hot foods must be kept at 140°F or higher. If you've prepared all your food at home, make sure it's quickly cooled. Then, keep it below 40°F, both in your refrigerator and your cooler.
  • Sanitation: Proper sanitation helps to avoid cross-contamination between meats and other foods. Always wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling raw meats. Also wash cutting boards, utensils, and other surfaces with hot soapy water before preparing other foods.To prevent cross-contamination in the cooler, securely wrap any meats, poultry, or fish that may leak or drip before placing them in the cooler. Make sure any foods you pack are still at 40°F or below.
  • Packing and traveling safely: Start with well-insulated coolers, and use plenty of ice to keep cold foods cold. Because a full cooler will maintain its low temperature longer than one that's partially full, pack empty spaces with ice or reusable cold packs. Use separate coolers for drinks. Keeping the food cooler closed most of the time will help it retain a colder temperature. Make a list of essential items, and check them off as you pack. Check to make sure you have:
extra ice or cold packs grill charcoal lighter fluid knives tongs brushes oven mitts food thermometers paper plates plastic silverware napkins wet wipes plastic cups paper towels a first-aid kit trash bags soap water for cleaning and dousing hot coals
  • Serving safely: When you reach the tailgate site, never let food sit out, especially in hot weather. It's safer to keep food in coolers until you're ready to cook or serve it, and to return it to the cooler to stay cold. That way, "seconds" will also be safe to eat. When grilling, use an instant-read food thermometer to ensure you cook ground meats to an internal temperature of at least 160°F; steaks to at least 145°F, pork chops and tenderloin steaks to at least 160°F, and chicken to at least 180°F. Serve immediately, or if necessary, hold hot foods on the grill to keep their temperature at a minimum of 140°F. Use clean plates for foods coming off the grill, not plates that held raw meat. Protect foods from insects and other contaminants by using lids or covers. When it's time to turn up the tailgate, discard perishable foods that have been left out for more than an hour in temperatures over 90°F, or for more than two hours in more moderate weather. For safety's sake, a good rule of thumb is, "If in doubt, throw it out."

Safe tailgating means well-insulated coolers, hot grills, plenty of ice, clean plates and utensils and an instant-read thermometer. However, Salmonella can still creep into prepared foods. In the next section, read how to keep salmonella out of an annual favorite; your holiday eggnog.

To learn more about food safety, check out these articles:


Can Salmonella Get in Egg Nog?

Make eggnog safely by cooking and chilling it ahead of time.
Cathleen Clapper

Q. I love serving eggnog at my holiday get-togethers, but I worry about salmonella poisoning. Is there a substitute?

A. There are recipes for eggnog substitutes that don't require the use of eggs, but you can easily -- and safely -- serve the real thing.

Here is a fool-proof method for creating a delicious batch of eggnog that is safe and salmonella-free:


  • First, simply beat the eggs, sugar, and about half the milk called for in your recipe together in a large saucepan or double boiler.
  • Cook the mixture over low heat or over a double boiler, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 160°F. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining milk.
  • Chill several hours or overnight. Just before serving, stir in your favorite seasonings (cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, rum, and so on).

Before you know it, eggnog season will be over and the picnic season will be under way again. Find out how to keep picnic food safe in the next section of this article.

To learn more about food safety, check out these articles:


Picnic Food Safety Tips

Make your picnic easy and safe by keeping hot and cold foods separate.

Picnics are a lot of fun but they can also pose dangers, especially where food is concerned. When preparing and eating picnic food, follow these food safety guidelines and eat outdoors with confidence.

Keep Hot Hot and Cold Cold

The bacteria that cause food poisoning thrive at moderate temperatures, so it's imperative that you keep dishes hot or cold, as the case may be. If you plan to cook picnic foods at home and keep them hot until ready to eat at your picnic site, you'll need to keep them heated to at least 140°F. For the amateur cook, finding the right equipment to do this can be difficult.


Remember that insulated thermos jugs and coolers designed to keep foods cold can also keep foods warm. For the best results, preheat these cases by filling them with boiling water; leave them sealed for 10 minutes or so before packing your picnic, then empty them, dry them, and pack your food as quickly as possible.

Some slow cookers are sold with insulated carrying cases. These insulating devices can be preheated before leaving the house simply by plugging them in for 20 or 30 minutes prior to leaving. It's then a simple matter to pack your meal in them and take off. (If your picnic site has electrical service, you can plug them in again to further guarantee your food stays appropriately hot.)

It's often easier to transport a meal cold, then cook it or reheat it at the picnic site. Cold food must be kept very cold -- at 40°F or less -- to avoid the "danger zone" temperatures in which bacteria thrive. Plan on filling at least one-fourth of your cooler with ice (or ice substitutes) in order to keep your food sufficiently cold.

It's also a good idea to pack two separate coolers: one with beverages and ice, and another with your meal. This way you can open and close the beverage cooler as much and as often as you like without warming the cold food.

Keep Raw Foods Away from Cooked Foods

One cardinal rule of food safety that's as true on a picnic as it is in your kitchen is that raw food and cooked food must never come in contact with each another. This rule also applies to the utensils, cutting boards, serving platters, and other kitchenware used with each food.

Pack raw meats such as uncooked burgers and hot dogs separately from any cooked items. Double-wrap them, or place them in two layers of sealed plastic bag to contain any accidental leaks. Never place cooked meats on unwashed platters or plates that held them when they were raw.

Don't Get Sick Off of Leftovers

Cook too many hot dogs at your picnic? Any cooked foods you want to save for later in the day or take home must be promptly chilled to below 40°F. Wrap them -- bring clean scalable bags and plastic cling film for this; never reuse wrapping that held raw meat -- and place them in a cooler with plenty of ice as soon as possible.

Any cooked food that has been sitting for an hour or more in the summer heat probably isn't safe to eat, much less pack up and take home.

Food is one of life's great pleasures and it is the center of some of our favorite activities. By following a few simple safety tips, you will stay healthy and able to enjoy everything that your food -- and the activities surrounding it -- have to offer.

To learn more about food safety, check out these articles: