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Food Safety: Preparing

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Food Safety: Preparing


Washing your hands often and preparing foods properly help reduce the risk of food poisoning. Here are a few tips.

  • Be sure your hands are clean when you prepare food. For example, wash your hands after:
    • Touching any parts of the body other than clean hands and clean parts of your arms.
    • Using the bathroom.
    • Coughing, sneezing, or using a handkerchief or tissue.
    • Eating, drinking, or using tobacco (for example, smoking).
    • Handling soiled kitchen utensils or equipment.
    • Handling or preparing foods, especially after you touch raw meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, or eggs.
    • Changing diapers, handling garbage, using the phone, shaking hands, or playing with pets.
  • Separate raw food from other food.

    Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and shellfish away from other foods, surfaces, utensils, and serving plates.

  • Don't wash raw meat.

    Washing or rinsing raw meat and poultry makes it more likely that bacteria will spread from the meat or poultry to kitchen utensils, countertops, and ready-to-eat foods.

  • Use two cutting boards if you can.

    Try to use one for fresh produce and the other for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Otherwise, be sure to wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water between each use. You can also wash your knives and cutting boards in the dishwasher to disinfect them. Replace cutting boards when they are worn out or have hard-to-clean grooves.

  • Clean the kitchen.
    • Keep kitchen surfaces clean with warm, soapy water.
    • Sanitize cutting boards and utensils. You can do this by using a dishwasher. Or you can make your own solution with 1 tablespoon of unscented household bleach in 1 gal (3.8 L) of water.
    • Disinfect countertops, surfaces, and sinks. You can buy disinfectant at the store or make your own with 1/3 cup of household bleach in 1 gal (3.8 L) of water. Use gloves when you handle disinfectants.
    • Wash dishcloths and towels often in the hot cycle of a washing machine.
  • Wash produce.

    Wash raw fruits and vegetables under running water before you eat them.

  • Marinate food safely.

    Marinate foods in a covered dish in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

  • Thaw food safely.

    Never thaw frozen meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish at room temperature. Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave. If you thaw food in the refrigerator, be sure that juices don't drip onto other food. Place these foods on the lowest shelf, never above ready-to-eat foods.

  • Cook food right away after thawing.

What's the best way to wash your hands?

You can wash your hands so that it kills the most germs. Just follow these simple steps.

  1. Wet your hands with running water, and apply soap.
  2. Rub your hands together to make a lather. Scrub well for at least 20 seconds.
  3. Pay special attention to your wrists, the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails.
  4. Rinse your hands well under running water.
  5. Use a clean towel to dry your hands, or air-dry your hands. You may want to use a clean towel as a barrier between the faucet and your clean hands when you turn off the water.

If soap and water are not available, you can use a hand sanitizer or alcohol-based hand wipes that contain at least 60% ethyl alcohol or isopropanol. The alcohol kills many types of germs on your hands, but it doesn't get rid of all types of germs.

When you can see dirt on your hands, or if your hands are greasy, it's better to wash with soap and water.

If you use sanitizer, put some on your hand and then rub your hands and fingers until they are dry. You don't need to use water.

How can you avoid getting sick from moldy food?

Some foods should be thrown away if they have some mold, while others can be used safely.

Soft foods that are moldy should be thrown away. Mold on these foods can grow under the surface. The foods may be contaminated with bacteria. Examples of soft foods include hot dogs, lunch meats, soft cheese, bread, jams, jellies, and soft fruits and vegetables.

Moldy foods that can still be used include:

  • Hard salami and dry-cured ham. Scrape the mold from the surface before using.
  • Firm fruits and vegetables, hard cheeses (such as cheddar and Parmesan), and cheeses made with mold (such as bleu and Gorgonzola) that have a different type of mold growing on the surface. Cut off the moldy area before using.


Current as of: October 24, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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