The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration offer consumers these guidelines for safe food handling and preparation:
Buy Meats Last… Refrigerate at Home Promptly
At the grocery store, buy cold food like meat and poultry last, right before checkout. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart, and guard against cross-contamination by putting packages containing raw meat into plastic bags.
Drive directly home from the grocery store and always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours of arriving home. Refrigerate perishable foods within one hour when the outdoor temperature is above 90 degrees. Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use.
When Preparing Meats, Keep Everything Clean
Prevent food borne illness by using separate platters and utensils for raw and cooked meats. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and raw meat juices can contaminate safely cooked food.
Precook Food Safely
Precooking food partially in the microwave oven, conventional oven or stove is a good way of reducing grilling time. Make sure that the food goes immediately on a preheated grill after precooking. Never partially cook meat or poultry and finish cooking later.
Cook Food Thoroughly
Cook all food to these minimum internal temperatures as measured with a food thermometer. Remember that meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. It is important to use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature:
All poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry and stuffing), 180°
Ground meats, 160°
Beef, pork, veal and lamb (steaks, roasts and chops), 145° and allow to rest at least 3 minutes
Ham (fresh or smoked and uncooked), 145° and allow to rest 3 minutes
Fully cooked ham (to reheat), 140° if packaged in USDA-inspected plant, 165° if not
Fish and shellfish, 145°
Fully Reheat Foods
When reheating fully cooked meats, like hot dogs, grill to 165° or until steaming hot. When using a microwave, heat food to 165°.
Keep Cooked Foods Hot
Cooked meats should be kept at 140° or warmer until served. Keep foods hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.
Promptly Refrigerate Leftovers
Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than two hours (one hour if the air temperature is above 90 degrees).
Fruits and Vegetables
Purchase fruit and vegetable free of bruises or damage. After purchase, put produce that requires refrigeration away promptly. (Fresh whole produce like bananas and potatoes do not need refrigeration). Fresh fruits and vegetables should be refrigerated within two hours of peeling or cutting. Leftover cut produce should be discarded if left at room temperature for more than two hours.
Keep Things Clean
Wash your hands often
Hands should be washed with warm soapy water before and after handling fresh produce and raw meat, as well as after changing diapers or handling pets.
Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables
Wash all fruits and vegetables with cold tap water immediately before eating or slicing. Do not use soaps of detergents. Scrub firm produce, such as cantaloupes, watermelons and cucumbers with a clean produce brush. Cut away any bruised or damaged areas before eating.
Wash surfaces often
Cutting boards, dishes and utensils should be washed with hot soapy water, and sanitized before and after coming in contact with foods. Be careful not to cross contaminate. Use one cutting board and utensil for produce, another for meats.
Keep cut fruit and vegetables cold. Use a cooler of ice packs when transporting or storing any perishable food outside of the kitchen.
For more information visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service website at www.fsis.usda.gov.