Food Safety – Protect Yourself!

All day long you hear about which foods are the healthiest to eat and which foods you should avoid. But what you might not hear often enough, is how to stay healthy by following the most important and basic food safety guidelines. This ensures that the food you’re eating and serving to your family is not contaminated with food borne illnesses that can cause anything from mild GI symptoms to more severe fatalities. Protect you and your family with the following principles:


1) Grocery Shopping – Always collect any perishable refrigerated and frozen food items at the end of your trip. Avoid buying any foods past the “Sell By,” Use By,” or other expiration dates. Never buy meats that have torn or leaking packaging.

2) Follow the 4 C’s: Clean, Categorize, Cook & Chill.

-Clean all preparation surfaces carefully and often throughout the prep and cooking process. Watch your hands thoroughly before and after you move on to prep a new food. Make sure all cutting boards and cutlery are also properly sanitized.

-Categorize your foods to prevent cross-contamination between raw meats and vegetables. Anything that is not going to be cooked and thoroughly heated before serving should be kept completely separate. Use color-coded cutting boards to make it easy to remember.

-Cook all foods properly, especially raw  meats. Heat all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temp of 145 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer. All ground meats should be heated to an internal temp of 160 degrees F and all poultry to 165 degrees F.

-Chill any leftovers within 2 hours after cooking – 1 hour if outside temperature is greater than 90 degrees. Discard any food that isn’t put away within that time frame. Place food in shallow containers for more rapid cooling. Used cooked leftovers within 4 days and reheat to at least 165 degrees F before re-serving.

3) Thawing – The refrigerator is the safest, yet slowest. If using this method you can refreeze the food item before or after cooking. Other methods such as placing food in leak-proof plastic bag and submerging in cold tap water, or microwave thawing are also acceptable but the food needs to be cooked before if you want to refreeze. Microwave thawed food must be cooked immediately.

4) Cold Storage Chart –

Product                               Refrigerator (<40 degrees F)               Freezer (<0 degrees F)

Eggs, In Shell                       3-5 weeks

Eggs, Raw Out of Shell     2-4 days

Hard Cooked                         1 week


Deli & Vacuum-Packed Products

Egg/Chicken/Tuna/Macaroni Salads    3-5 days                      Don’t Freeze


Hot Dogs & Luncheon Meats

Opened Pack Hot Dogs       1 week                                               1-2 months

Unopened                              2 weeks                                             1-2 months

Luncheon Meat Opened    3-5 days                                             1-2 months


Ground Meat & Stew Meat    3-5 days                                            3-4 months

Fresh Red Meat                     3-5 days                                          4-12 months

Fresh Poultry                         1-2 days                                           9-12 months


Cooked Meat & Casseroles    3-4 days                                      2-3 months

Cooked Poultry                         3-4 days                                       4-6 months

Nick VanMeter