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Basic Guidelines for Food Safety at Home

Basic Guidelines for Food Safety at Home

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  1. Keep it safe, refrigerate or freeze. Refrigerate or freeze all perishable foods. Refrigerator temperature should be 40� F or less; freezer temperature should be 0� F or less. Use a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to check the temperatures.
  2. Never thaw food at room temperature. Always thaw food in the refrigerator, or in cold water or in a microwave. When thawing in the microwave, you must cook the food immediately.
  3. Wash hands with warm soapy water before preparing food. Wash hands, utensils, cutting boards and other work surfaces after contact with raw meat and poultry. This helps prevent cross contamination.
  4. Never leave perishable food out of refrigeration over two hours. If room temperature is 90� F or above food should not be left out over 1 hour. This would include items such as take-out foods, leftovers from a restaurant meal, and meals-on wheels deliveries.
  5. Thoroughly cook raw meat, poultry and fish (see the following chart of internal temperatures). Do not partially cook food. Have a constant heat source, and always set the oven at 325� F or higher when cooking. There is no need to bring food to room temperature before cooking.


Eating Within Two Hours?

Pick up or receive the food HOT...and enjoy eating within two hours.

Not Eating Within Two Hours?

Keeping food warm is not enough. Harmful bacteria can multiply between 40� and 140 degrees F.

Set oven temperature high enough to keep the hot food at 140 degrees F or above. Check internal temperature of food with a meat thermometer. Covering with foil will help keep the food moist.

Eating Much Later?

It's not a good idea to try and keep the food hot longer than two hours. Food will taste better and be safely stored if you:

  • Place in shallow containers.
  • Divide large quantities into smaller portions.
  • Cover loosely and refrigerate immediately.
  • Reheat thoroughly when ready to eat.

Reheat thoroughly to temperature of 165 degrees F or until hot and steaming. In the microwave oven, cover food and rotate so it heats evenly. Allow stand time for more even heating.

Consult your microwave owner's manual for recommended cooking time, power level and stand time. Inadequate heating can contribute to illness.


Keep Cold Food Cold

Eat or refrigerate immediately. Cold food should be held at 40 degrees F or colder.

The Two Hour Rule

Perishable food should not be at room temperature longer than two hours. Discard food which has been left at room temperature longer than two hours. For room temperatures over 90 degrees F, discard food after one hour.


We recommend the following:

Fresh ground beef, veal, lamb, pork160 degrees F
Beef, veal, lamb-roasts, steaks, chops
Medium160 degrees F
Well done170 degrees F
Fresh pork-roasts, steaks, chops
Medium160 degrees F
Well done170 degrees F
Cook before eating160 degrees F
Fully cooked, to reheat140 degrees F
Ground Chicken, Turkey165 degrees F
Whole Chicken, Turkey180 degrees F
Breasts, roasts170 degrees F
Thighs and wingsCook until juices run clear
Egg dishes, casseroles160 degrees F
Leftovers165 degrees F


ProductRefrigerator (40 degrees F)Freezer (0 degrees F)
Fresh, in shell3 weeksDon't freeze
Hardcooked1 weekDon't freeze well
TV Dinners
Keep frozen until ready to use
3-4 months
Deli prepared convenience foods such as egg, chicken, ham, and macaroni salads3-5 daysDon't freeze well
Hotdogs and Lunch Meats
Hotdogs, opened package1 week1-2 months
Hotdogs, unopened package2 weeks, but not more than one week after the "sell-by" date1-2 months
Lunch meats, opened3-5 days1-2 months
Lunch meats, unopened2 weeks1-2 months
Deli sliced luncheon meats3-5 daysDon't freeze well
Soups and Stews
Vegetable or meat added
3-4 days2-3 months
Ground Meat and Poultry1-2 days3-4 months
Bacon7 days1 month
Sausage1-2 days1-2 months
Ham, fully cooked--whole7 days1-2 months
Ham, fully cooked--half3-5 days1-2 months
Ham, fully cooked--slices3-4 days1-2 months
Fresh Meat
Beef, steaks and roasts3-5 days6-12 months
Pork, chops and roasts3-5 days4-6 months
Lamb, chops and roasts3-5 days6-9 months
Veal3-5 days4-8 months
Meat Leftovers3-4 days2-3 months
Fresh Poultry
Chicken or turkey, whole1-2 days1 year
Chicken or turkey pieces1-2 days9 months
Poultry Leftovers3-4 days4 months

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