THE DOCUMENT LENGTH IS ABOUT 12 PRINTED PAGES
Food poisoning is a great master of disguise. You could be up
half the night with a headache and nausea and think that you've caught the flu or a virus
that's going around. However, a lot of people
who think they have the flu are really suffering from a mild case of food poisoning,
caused by tiny living organisms called bacteria and viruses Foodborne illnesses affect
millions of Americans each year. You can reduce your risk of getting food poisoning by
following the guidelines in this booklet.
Precautions are especially needed when foods are served to people in high-risk categories
who are particularly vulnerable to infections: the very young, the elderly, pregnant women
risk to the fetus),i and people already seriously ill or whose im-mune systems are
weakened. For these people, careful observance of all food handling guidelines is
essential because foodborne
illnesses may be life-threatening.
Preventing food poisoning starts when you buy food at the supermarket. Keep food safety in
mind as you store, prepare, cook, and serve food at home. Food poisoning prevention can be
into three rules: keep food clean, cook food adequately, and keep hot food hot and cold
CAUSES OF FOOD POISONING
Most foodborne illnesses are caused by eating food that contains certain types of bacteria
or viruses (germs). After the food is eaten, these living microorganisms continue to grow,
causing an infection. Foods can also cause illness if they contain a toxin or poison
produced by bacteria growing in the food.
Several different kinds of bacteria can cause food poisoning. Two similar groups of them,
called Salmonella and Campylobacter, are normally found in warm-blooded animals such as
cattle, poultry and swine. These bacteria may be present in raw meat, poultry, eggs, or
unpasteurized dairy products. These same foods, as well as vegetables and other crops that
come in contact with the soil (such as herbs), may also be the source of a bacteria called
perfringens. Growth of this organism may occur when foods such as stews, soups, or gravies
made with meat, fish, or poultry are stored improperly or left at room temperature for
longer than 2-3 hours. Listeria, a newly recognized problem, is mainly associated with raw
foods of animal origin. Staphylococcus or Staph organisms occur normally on human skin and
in the nose and throat. These bacteria can be transmitted to food when handled. When
perishable foods (such as custards or salads containing meat, poultry, or eggs) are kept
under improper temperature conditions and Staph are present, the bacteria may grow to
unsafe numbers and produce toxin.
Food poisoning will result.
Hepatitis A and some other viral diseases may be transmitted through foods. The
virus is passed from the intestines of infected persons onto the hands of food handlers or
into sewage. Any food
subject to fecal contamination may cause hepatitis A or other foodborne viral illnesses.
Washing hands thoroughly after using the toilet and cooking shellfish and other foods
which may have been exposed to sewage-contaminate water are essential measures to avoid
transmission of viral diseases through food.
Botulism is a rare but deadly kind of food poisoning. The bacteria that cause it,
Clostridium botulinum, are found naturally almost everywhere--including soil and water.
They become dangerous when environmental conditions (low oxygen and low acid) allow them
multiply and produce toxin. Low-acid foods (such as meat, fish, poultry, or vegetables)
that are improperly canned may be breeding grounds for these bacteria. The toxin may also
be produced in low-acid cooked foods left at room temperature too long such as baked
potatoes or pot pies.
KEEP FOOD CLEAN
Bacteria are a natural part of the environment. Be careful to keep things
clean--especially your hands. Keep pets out of areas where food is prepared. Also teach
children to wash their hands before handling food. Discourage anyone with an infectious
disease fromhandling, preparing, or serving food. When handling food:
- Work with clean hands, clean hair, clean fingernails,
- Wash hands with soap and water after using the toilet,
anyone using the toilet, or changing diapers.
- Wash hands with soap and water after smoking or
- Wash hands with soap and water after touching raw
seafoods or eggs, before working with other food.
- Avoid using hands to mix foods when clean utensils can
- Keep hands away from mouth, nose, and hair.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues and
- Avoid using the same spoon more than once for tasting
preparing, cooking, or serving.
- Thoroughly clean all dishes, utensils, and work
soap and water after each use. It is especially important to clean
equipment and work surfaces that have been used for raw food (such
as meat, poultry, or seafood) before you use them for cooked food.
This prevents the cooked food from becoming contaminated with
bacteria that may have been present in the raw food. Bacteria can
be destroyed by rinsing utensils and work surfaces with a solution
of 1 tablespoon (about 1 capful) of chlorine laundry bleach to 1
gallon of cool water. Cutting boards, meat grinders, blenders, and
meat slicers particularly need this treatment.
COOK FOODS ADEQUATELY
Bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobactor and Listeria can live in the intestinal tracts
of animals. Cooking animal products thoroughly will destroy these bacteria. It is risky to
meats or poultry, raw or lightly cooked fish and shellfish, raw milk, and foods made with
raw or lightly cooked eggs.
Meat and poultry should be cooked to the temperatures listed in Table 1. Make sure that
meat and poultry are cooked all the way through by using a meat thermometer. For whole
poultry, insert the tip of the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh next to the
body, or cook until the juices run clear when the bird is pricked with a fork.
Table 1. Cooking Meat and Poultry
Meat and poultry cooked throughout to these temperatures are
generally safe to eat and have the flavor, appearance, and texture
associated with these foods.
Boneless turkey roasts 170-175
(inside or outside the bird) 165
Rare beef is popular, but since it is cooked to only 140øF, some food-poisoning organisms
Game meat frequently has a high bacterial content because it has been handled in less
sanitary conditions than domestic meat. Cook all game meat to at least 160øF (medium
doneness) to kill any food-poisoning bacteria that may be in the meat.
Raw fish may also contain parasites which can cause human illness. Cook fish until it
flakes and loses its translucent (raw) ap-pearance (140øF).
Food Poisoning Chart
Salmonellosis and Campylobacterosis
Salmonella and Campylobacter. Bacteria widespread in nature;
live and grow in intestinal tracts of humans and animals.
EXAMPLES OF FOODS INVOLVED:
Poultry, red meat, eggs, and dairy products.
Eating contaminated food, or contact with infected persons or
carriers of the infection. Also transmitted by insects,
rodents, and pets.
Severe headache, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal
cramps, and fever. Infants, elderly people, persons with low
resistance are most susceptible. Severe infections cause high
fever and may even cause death.
Usually within 12-36 hours.
Cook foods thoroughly. The bacteria are destroyed by heating
the food to 140øF for 10 minutes or to higher temperatures for
less time--for instance, 155ø for a few seconds.
Chill foods rapidly in small quantities. Refrigerate at 40ø F.
Wash hands, work surfaces and equipment after touching raw
meat or poultry.
Clostridium perfringens. Spore-forming bacteria that grow in
the absence of oxygen. Temperatures reached in thorough
cooking of most foods are sufficient to destroy vegetative
cells, but heat-resistant spores can survive.
EXAMPLES OF FOODS INVOLVED:
Cooked meat and poultry, stews, soups, gravies left at
60-125øF several hours or cooled slowly.
Eating food contaminated with large numbers of the bacteria.
Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and flatulence.
Usually within 8-20 hours.
May persist for 24 hours.
Cool food rapidly and refrigerate promptly at 40øF or below,
or hold above 140øF to prevent growth of surviving bacteria in
cooked meats, gravies, and meat casseroles to be eaten later.
Reheat leftover foods to 165øF.
Staphylococcus aureus. Bacteria growing in food produce a
toxin that is extremely resistant to heat.
EXAMPLES OF FOODS INVOLVED:
Custards, egg salad, potato salad, chicken salad, macaroni
salad, ham, salami, cheese, cooked poultry, and dressing .
Eating food containing the toxin. Food handlers can carry the
bacteria in infected cuts and wounds.
Vomiting, diarrhea, prostration, abdominal cramps, retching,
weakness. Onset usually sudden.
Usually within 2-8 hours.
Growth of bacteria that produce toxin is stopped by keeping
hot foods above 140øF and cold foods at or below 40øF. Chill
food rapidly in small quantities.
Once the toxin is formed, it is not easily destroyed by heat.
Mishandled foods cannot be made safe by reheating .
Clostridium botulinum. Spore-forming organisms that grow and
produce toxin in the absence of oxygen, such as in a sealed
container or below the surface of food.
EXAMPLES OF FOODS INVOLVED:
Improperly canned low-acid food (vegetables, fish, meat,
poultry), smoked fish, and improperly handled low-acid cooked
Eating food containing the toxin.
Headache, double vision, inability to swallow, speech
difficulty, and progressive respiratory paralysis. Fatality
rate is about 20%.
Usually 12-36 hours or longer.
Recovery is prolonged.
Follow reliable instructions for time and temperature for home
canning low-acid vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry.
Bacterial spores in these foods are destroyed only by high
temperatures obtained in the pressure canner.
Toxin is destroyed by boiling 10 minutes or heating in the
oven to 185ø F.
Refrigerate cooked low-acid foods promptly.
Listeria monocytogenes. Bacteria widespread in nature that can
live in soil as well as intestinal tracts of humans and
EXAMPLES OF FOODS INVOLVED:
Raw milk, unripened and other soft cheese, undercooked meat
Eating food contaminated with the bacteria.
Headache, fever, and nausea. Can lead to meningitis. Can
result in miscarriage or stillbirth. Pregnant women, infants,
and persons with low resistance to infections (such as cancer
patients) are most susceptible. Can result in death unless
there is antibiotic therapy.
Usually within 24 hours but can occur up to 12 days after
Cook foods of animal origin thoroughly. Buy pasteurized milk.
Prevent recontamination of cooked foods by cleaning hands,
surfaces, and equipment that come into contact with raw animal
foods. Do not use animal manure or sewage sludge in your
Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Bacteria common in seawater. Other
Vibrio species found in seawater (including Vibrio cholera)
also cause foodborne disease.
EXAMPLES OF FOODS INVOLVED:
Raw seafood such as oysters, shrimp, crabs, and clams.
Eating seafood contaminated with large numbers of bacteria.
Diarrhea, cramps, weakness, nausea, chills, and headache.
3-76 hours (an average of 17 hours).
Keep raw and cooked seafood refrigerated. Cook seafood
thoroughly. Prevent cross-contamination between raw and cooked
KEEP HOT FOOD HOT, COLD FOOD COLD
Like other living things, bacteria need food, warmth, moisture, and time to grow and
multiply. In order to prevent bacteria from growing, keep hot foods HOT (above 140øF) and
cold foods COLD
(below 40øF). Food may be unsafe if held for more than 2-3 hours at 60-125øF, the zone
where bacteria grow rapidly. Remember to include all time involved during preparation,
storage, and serving. For example, holding foods for several hours in an automatic oven
prior to cooking is not safe if the food is in the temperature zone of 60-125øF for more
than 2 or 3 hours. Table 2 summarizes the temperatures needed to control the growth of
bacteria in foods.
Temperature of food for control of bacteria
Take care with perishable foods before you get them home, also. When shopping, pick up the
perishables as your last stop in the grocery, and--especially in hot weather --get them
home and into the refrigerator quickly. Don't leave them in the car while you run other
errands. If you live more than 30 miles from the store, consider using an ice chest for
the trip home.
The colder food is kept, the less chance bacteria have to grow. Use a thermometer to make
sure your refrigerator is giving you good protection against bacterial growth. The
register 40øF or lower.
In most cases, prompt cooling and proper refrigeration of foods can hold the number of
bacteria to a safe level. Hot foods may be refrigerated promptly if they do not raise the
temperature of the
refrigerator. Keep them in the refrigerator until served or reheated. Speed the cooling of
large quantities by refrigerating in shallow containers. If this is not possible, put the
food into cold water. Stir and replace the cold water frequently over a 30-minute period.
HANDLE THESE FOODS WITH CARE
EGGS AND EGG-RICH FOODS
Keep eggs clean and cold. Refrigerate them promptly. Leftover egg yolks or whites should
be refrigerated in a covered container. Always store foods containing eggs in the
refrigerator. Refrigerate hard-cooked eggs after preparation. If you hide hard-cooked eggs
for an Easter egg hunt, do not leave them out of the refrigerator longer than 2-3
hours if you plan to eat the eggs.
New research suggests that if you are in a high-risk group you should avoid eating raw
eggs and foods containing raw eggs because Salmonella could be present. Cook eggs
thoroughly until both the yolk and white are firm, not runny, in order to kill any
bacteria that may be present. If you choose to prepare dishes with raw or lightly cooked
eggs, use only fresh, clean, unbroken, odorfree eggs. Recipes in which eggs are not
thoroughly cooked include homemade egg-milk drinks, soft-cooked eggs, poached eggs,
scrambled eggs, omelets, uncooked salad dressings, homemade ice cream, mer- ingues, soft
custards, and puddings cooked on the top of the range.
Cool hot foods containing eggs if they are not to be served hot. Set large batches of
puddings in ice water to speed cooling. Then refrigerate promptly until time to serve.
Refrigerate cream, custard, or meringue pies and foods with custard fillings, including
cakes, cream puffs, or eclairs. Do not allow them to stand at room temperatures. If you
carry foods of this type on summer outings, keep them in a cooler with ice or reusable
cold packs until served. Follow the same precaution for salads that contain eggs.
MEAT, POULTRY, FISH
One safe way to thaw frozen meat or poultry is to take it out of the freezer and leave it
overnight in the refrigerator. Normally, it will be ready to use the next day.
For faster thawing, put the frozen package in a watertight plastic bag under cold water.
Change the water often. The cold water temperature slows bacterial growth in the outer,
thawed portions of the meat while the inner areas are still thawing.
You can safely thaw meat and poultry in a microwave oven. Follow the manufacturer's
Caution: It's not a good idea to thaw meat and poultry on the
kitchen counter. Bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature.
You can cook frozen meat, poultry, or fish without thawing, but you must allow more
cooking time to be sure the center of the meat is properly cooked. Allow at least one and
a half times as long to cook as required for unfrozen or thawed products of the same
weight and shape. Undercooked foods may not be safe to eat.
Store fresh or thawed raw meat, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator. Be very careful
that drippings do not contaminate other foods. Put a tray or pan under refrigerated meats,
poultry to prevent the juices from dripping onto foods on lower racks.
If possible, have two cutting boards, one for raw meat, fish and poultry and the other for
cooked foods and salads. A hard nonporous cutting board (such as acrylic) is better than a
wooden cutting board for preventing the spread of bacteria.
Thoroughly wash the cutting board, knives, countertop, and sink after they have been used
to prepare raw meat, fish and poultry in order to keep bacteria from spreading from raw to
cooked foods and salads. Finish by rinsing with a dilute bleach solution.
Cook meat, poultry and seafood adequately. Do not partially cook meat or poultry one day
and complete the cooking the next day.
Keep cooked meat, fish, or poultry hot (above 140øF) until served, or cool and hold below
40øF to prevent the growth of bacteria or the production of toxins. Promptly refrigerate
cooked meat and fish that will be eaten cold or eaten after reheating.
Freeze cooked meat, poultry, stuffing, and gravy if you want to keep them longer than a
few days. Store frozen cooked meat or poultry products in a freezer until they are
reheated for serving
or thawed for immediate use. Directions on the packages of commercially prepared and
partially prepared frozen foods must be followed exactly. Heating for the specified time
assures that the
food will be safe to eat.
Hamburger. Ground meat must be handled carefully and cooked until it is at least
brownish-pink in the center. Never serve it raw. Ground meat requires special care because
bacteria on the surface are spread throughout the meat during grinding, making it spoil
more rapidly than whole meats.
Hot dogs and lunch meats. These products should be stored in the refrigerator.
Stuffed meat or poultry. Stuff poultry, meat, or fish just before roasting. Put the
stuffing in lightly--without packing--to allow heat to penetrate quickly throughout the
stuffing. Make sure the
stuffing reaches a temperature of at least 165øF. To check the temperature, insert a meat
thermometer in the stuffing for about 5 minutes. Cook longer if necessary. You may prefer
to bake thestuffing separately.
Microwaved poultry. Extra care must be taken when using a microwave oven to cook pork or
poultry. Cooking in a microwave can cause "cold spots," areas that do not reach
as high a temperature as other areas. Cold spots result from uneven distribution of
microwaves, from uneven distribution of water and fat in chicken and from bones that
"shade" other parts from microwaves in poultry.
Be sure that all parts of poultry are thoroughly cooked. Choose an appropriate size of
bird or roast. The maximum size for a microwaved turkey is 12-14 pounds. Place the turkey
microwave oven and check it on all sides. There should be 3 inches of space between the
turkey and oven walls, and at least 2 inches between the top of the oven and the upper
side of the turkey.
Start with a bird roast that is the same temperature throughout so that it will cook more
evenly. If pork or poultry have been defrosted in the microwave, allow a rest period of
minutes between defrosting and cooking to allow the temperature to equalize. Insert a
skewer into the center to be certain the meat is completely thawed.
Cook poultry thoroughly. Rotate dishes so that cooking will be even. No pink color should
be present in meat or juices after cooking. Make small cuts next to the bone and in the
part of the meat to check. Let cooked poultry stand covered for 15-20 minutes to
complete cooking. The standing time equalizes the internal temperature.
If you use a temperature probe when microwaving a turkey, hot fat can run down the probe
and turn the oven off before the turkey is done. Move the probe to another place and
continue cooking. If you check the temperature with a conventional thermometer, allow at
least 1 minute for an accurate reading.
Hot perishable foods need to be cooled quickly. Don't cool leftovers on the kitchen
counter. Put them straight into the refrigerator or else cool them in a bowl surrounded by
Small portions of food cool more quickly to temperatures where bacteria quit growing.
Divide large meat, macaroni, or potato salads and large bowls of mashed potatoes or
dressing into smaller portions. Pour large pots of stew or soup into shallow containers,
then put into the refrigerator.
Caution: Do not rely on reheating leftover food to make mishandled food
safe. Staph bacteria produce a toxin that is not destroyed by heating!
Maintain strict sanitation when preparing any food for the home freezer. Keep all food to
be frozen and everything it touches clean. Freezing does not kill the bacteria in food; it
their growth. They continue to multiply after the food is thawed.
Freeze only high-quality food. Handle foods to be frozen as little as possible to avoid
spreading bacteria. Foods that have been frozen and thawed require the same care as foods
that have not been frozen. You may safely refreeze frozen foods that have thawed if they
still contain ice crystals or if they are still cold--about 40øF. In general, if a food
is safe to eat, it is safe to refreeze.
Thawed ground meat, poultry, or fish that have an off-odor or are off-color should not be
refrozen and should not be eaten. If the odor or color of any food is poor or
questionable, do not taste it.
Throw it out.
Commercially canned foods are considered safe because they are processed under carefully
controlled conditions. However, if a commercially canned food shows any sign of
spoilage--bulging can ends, leakage, spurting liquid, off-odor, or mold--do not use it.
Do not even taste it.
Can low-acid foods in a pressure canner. It is not safe to can vegetables, fish, meat, or
poultry, or mixtures containing these foods in a boiling-water canner, an oven, a steamer
pressure, or an open kettle because these methods do not get the food hot enough to kill
the dangerous bacterial spores of Clostridium botulinum. There is no danger of botulism,
low-acid foods are canned properly in a pressure canner. Be sure the pressure canner is
working properly and that each step of the canning process--including time and temperature
Tomatoes, pickled vegetables, and fruits can be processed safely in a boiling-water canner
because they are more acid than other vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry. However, do not
use overripe tomatoes for canning, since tomatoes lose acidity as they mature.
Test your food safety knowledge.
Which of the following statements are true, and which are false?
1. When people say they have the "2-hour flu," they may actually have a case of
2. Food-poisoning bacteria multiply rapidly at ordinary room temperatures.
3. Hamburger is less likely to contain food-poisoning bacteria than most fresh meat and
poultry because the grinding destroys bacteria.
4. Hard-cooked eggs can be safely stored at room temperature for up to two days.
5. Since bacteria cannot be spread from your hands to food, it is safe to use your hands
instead of a spoon to mix potato salad.
6. Extra care is needed if pork or poultry are cooked in a microwave oven.
7. It is safe to eat raw or lightly cooked meat, fish, poultry, and eggs.
8. Food poisoning can result from failing to properly clean your hands, equipment
and work surfaces.
1. True (see page 1)
2. True (see Table 2)
3. False (see page 7)
4. False (see page 3)
5. False (see pages 1 and 2)
6. True (see page 8)
7. False (see page 2)
8. True (see pages 2 and 7)