By Carl Hanson

It seems like every time we check the news, there's a food-poisoning alert. One day an outbreak of salmonella in the eggs, the next it's e coli in the lettuce. Well, we checked in with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which shared simple ways that we can all protect ourselves from serious illness when we dine out or prepare food at home.

Photo by Meredith

1. Keep It Clean

To keep germs from spreading, wash your hands thoroughly with hot soapy water before, during, and after you prep food. Wash surfaces like countertops and cutting boards as well as utensils. And thoroughly rinse your fruits and vegetables under running water. However, do not wash your raw poultry and meats before cooking, which brings us to #2:

2. Don't Cross-Contaminate

Keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood separate from other foods when you shop at the market and when you store them in the fridge. Use separate cutting boards for fruits and veggies and for raw meats. Also, do not wash raw meat or poultry before cooking -- it can spread bacteria around the kitchen.

3. Cook Food to the Right Temperature

Cook your food to the proper temperature and use a cooking thermometer to get an accurate reading. Here are cooking times and internal temperature doneness guides for meat and poultry:

4. Refrigerate Quickly

Don't leave perishable food out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Less than 2 hours if it's hot. Get it packaged up and into the fridge, which should be set to below 40 degrees F. Check out these 5 food-safety rules for leftovers. Find out the best ways to reheat your leftovers.

5. Thaw Correctly

Thaw frozen food like meats, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator or in cold water. Don't leave it out at room temperature to thaw.

6. Avoid Raw or Undercooked Eggs

Eggs can contain Salmonella. While the risk of becoming ill is rare, there are a few things you can do to ensure your family stays healthy. Use pasteurized eggs when making recipes calling for raw eggs. And resist the urge to eat raw dough! Here's how to pasteurize egg whites for meringues and fruit desserts.

Photo by Meredith

So those are some safety tips for handling food at home. Here are a few ways to protect your family from food poisoning when you're eating out:

7. Check for Cleanliness

When dining out, it's first things first. Is the restaurant clean? If the customer-facing dining room is a dirty mess, you can just imagine what's going on behind the scenes in the kitchen.

8. Make Sure Your Food Is Properly Cooked

For meats, fish, eggs, and poultry, send back any food that is undercooked.

9. Be Careful with Your Leftovers

Make sure any leftovers are properly packaged and make it from restaurant to refrigerator within 2 hours. Reduce that time to 1 hour if it's a hot day or the food was being driven around in a hot car. Leave the food out on the countertop overnight? It's time for the trash. The CDC also recommends eating your leftovers within 3 to 4 days.

10. Check Out Inspection Scores

Your city may post restaurant health inspection scores on the web. Check with your state health department to see if they're providing that info. Some cities, like Seattle, require that restaurants post their scores on the front windows of the restaurant, so customers can see what they're getting into.


For more, check out the CDC's Food Safety web page.


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