23 Essential Food Safety Rules [UPDATE 2022]

23 Essential Food Safety Rules [UPDATE 2022]

Most of these rules are food safety basics, designed to educate. Everyone should know how to avoid contaminated food, spot opportunities to cross contaminate, allow foods to develop harmful bacteria and understand safely cooked foods.

As you would assume, there are guidelines for fruit and vegetables but many more for handling meat, temperatures to cook meat, techniques to wash meat, marinate meat, safe internal temperature for meat, minimum internal temperature for meat, thawing meat, the use of appliances like chafing dishes or a slow cooker.



bowl of cherry tomatoes




The United States government site, fda.gov, gives gives the food industry and food service guidance on serving food. The federal government websites can guide you to other government agencies for associated information.


Wash hands and surfaces often for best food safety. Many contaminations stem from poor personal hygiene. Many outbreaks can be avoided by washing hands regularly in hot soapy water, (https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/steps-keep-food-safe)


Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, ready to eat foods, ground meats, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, frozen food, canned foods.



Family in the Kitchen




According to food safety standards, cook foods to proper temperatures, checking with a food thermometer. (https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/steps-keep-food-safe)


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Refrigerate promptly (https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/steps-keep-food-safe)

Choose Foods Processed for Safety

While many foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are best in their natural state, others simply are not safe unless they have been processed. For example, always buy pasteurized as opposed to raw milk and, if you have the choice, select fresh or frozen poultry treated with ionizing radiation. When shopping, keep in mind that food processing was invented to improve safety as well as to prolong shelf-life. Certain foods eaten raw, such as lettuce, need thorough washing.(https://www.paho.org/en/health-emergencies/who-golden-rules-safe-food-preparation#collapse-accordion-5948-2a)


fresh mushrooms




Cook Food Thoroughly

Many raw foods, most notable poultry, meats, eggs and unpasteurized milk, may be contaminated with disease-causing organisms. Thorough cooking will kill the pathogens, but remember that the temperature of all parts of the food must reach at least 70 °C. If cooked chicken is still raw near the bone, put it back in the oven until it’s done – all the way through. Frozen meat, fish, and poultry, must be thoroughly thawed before cooking.(https://www.paho.org/en/health-emergencies/who-golden-rules-safe-food-preparation#collapse-accordion-5948-2a)

Eat Cooked Foods Immediately

When cooked foods cool to room temperature, microbes begin to proliferate. The longer the wait, the greater the risk. To be on the safe side, eat cooked foods just as soon as they come off the heat.





prepping fresh vegetables




Store cooked foods carefully

If you must prepare foods in advance or want to keep leftovers, be sure to store them under either hot (near or above 60 °C) or cool (near or below 10 °C) conditions. This rule is of vital importance if you plan to store foods for more than four or five hours.

Foods for infants should preferably not be stored at all. A common error, responsible for countless cases of foodborne disease, is putting too large a quantity of warm food in the refrigerator. In an overburdened refrigerator, cooked foods cannot cool to the core as quickly as they must. When the centre of food remains warm (above 10 °C) for too long, microbes thrive, quickly proliferating to disease-causing levels.




eggs crabcake and sauce on an English muffin
Crabcake Benedict




Reheat Cooked Foods Thoroughly

This is your best protection against microbes that may have developed during storage (proper storage slows down microbial growth but does not kill the organisms). Once again, thorough reheating means that all parts of the food must reach at least 70 °C. (https://www.paho.org/en/health-emergencies/who-golden-rules-safe-food-preparation)

Avoid Contact Between Cooked Foods and Raw Foods and Raw Meats

This is your best protection against microbes that may have developed during storage (proper storage slows down microbial growth but does not kill the organisms). Once again, thorough reheating means that all parts of the food must reach at least 70 °C. (https://www.paho.org/en/health-emergencies/who-golden-rules-safe-food-preparation)


fresh vegetables from the Farmers Market
Tomatoes, Zucchini, Cucumbers and Summer Squash from the Garden



Wash hands repeatedly

Wash hands thoroughly before you start preparing food and after every interruption – especially if you have to change the baby or have been to the toilet. After preparing raw foods such as fish, meat, or poultry, wash again before you start handling other foods. And if you have an infection on your hand, be sure to bandage or cover it before preparing food. Remember, too, that household pets – dogs, cats, birds, and especially turtles – often harbour dangerous pathogens that can pass from your hands into food. (https://www.paho.org/en/health-emergencies/who-golden-rules-safe-food-preparation)

Keep All Food Contact Surfaces Meticulously Clean

Since foods are so easily contaminated, any surface used for food preparation must be kept absolutely clean. Think of every food scrap, crumb or spot as a potential reservoir of germs. Cloths that come into contact with dishes and utensils should be changed frequently and boiled before re-use. Separate cloths for cleaning the floors also require frequent washing.





quick and easy chicken fajitas





Protect Foods From Insects, Rodents, and Other Animals

Animals and pests frequently carry pathogenic microorganisms which cause foodborne disease. Storing foods in closed containers is your best protection.


Use Safe Water

Safe water is just as important for food preparation as for drinking. If you have any doubts about the water supply, boil water before adding it to food or making ice for drinks. Be especially careful with any water used to prepare an infant’s meal.




homemade dog food





Don’t let sick people prepare food

The CDC’s Environmental and Health Sciences branch conducted a survey of 486 food workers in nine states. The results showed that 5% of workers said they prepared food when they were suffering from vomiting or diarrhea. By doing so, they put their customers’ health at risk. You shouldn’t need food safety tips to tell you if your employees are sick, keep them away from the food. https://www.gofoodservice.com/blog/10-food-safety-tips-commercial-kitchen

Use Gloves

When preparing food for a crowd, safe food handling practices, wear gloves. But you can’t use the same gloves for every ingredient! It’s important that they change their gloves regularly when moving from raw meat and poultry to cooked food. If they don’t change their gloves, they can spread contaminants to the customer’s food, which may lead to food poisoning .https://www.gofoodservice.com/blog/10-food-safety-tips-commercial-kitchen

Wash Food Properly

Make sure you rinse fruits and vegetables properly. Even if a vegetable will be peeled or skinned, it must still be washed. If you don’t wash fruits, you risk spreading bacteria from the outside of the produce to the inside as you prepare it. A colander will make the task easier, as long as it is only used for fresh fruits and vegetables, and not any other ingredients, such as pasta or raw meats.



Brussels Sprouts

Learn Which Foods Might Need Special Attention

Tomatoes require special care as numerous cases of Salmonella have been linked to tomatoes in recent years. You should never let your tomatoes soak in standing water, but instead, run them under cold water to scrub thoroughly. Fruits and vegetables should be washed under cold running water or with a commercial FDA-approved fruit and vegetable rinse. https://www.gofoodservice.com/blog/10-food-safety-tips-commercial-kitchen

Refrigerate perishable food.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Foodborne illness often stems from cross-contamination, where you can spread bacteria from raw meat or poultry to ready to eat food. You should separate cutting boards for raw produce, raw uncooked meat, raw poultry, seafood, and eggs. You may opt to label each board with its intended purpose or use a color-coded system. Find what works best for your kitchen, but be sure to keep boards separate from one another. Don’t forget to use separate utensils and meat thermometers as well. https://www.gofoodservice.com/blog/10-food-safety-tips-commercial-kitchen

Store Food Correctly and At the Right Temperature

All of your kitchen’s raw meat and poultry should be kept separate from other foods, especially vegetables, prepared sauces, and anything else that requires little preparation. The FDA advises food should be cooled to 41°F or below and should be cooled in a way that provides ventilation, such as in shallow containers so air can circulate around the food. You also make sure your meat doesn’t drip and contaminate other food. Cut vegetables should never be left out at room temperature, but instead properly stored away. Never store food on the floor either have a thermometer in the refrigerator, not just the freezer.


Some People Are at Higher Risk for Food Borne Illness

Anyone can get food poisoning, but some groups of people are more likely to get sick and have a more serious illness. Their ability to fight germs and sickness may not be as effective. These groups include:

  • Adults aged 65 and older
  • Children younger than age 5
  • People whose immune systems are weakened by health conditions or medicine used to treat them, including people with diabetes, liver or kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, or cancer
  • Pregnant women

If you are high risk, take these extra steps

People who are more likely to get food poisoning should not eat:

  • Undercooked or raw food from animals (such as beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, or seafood)
  • Raw or lightly cooked sprouts
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and juices
  • Soft cheese (such as queso fresco), or other foods, unless it is labeled as made with pasteurized milk

5 Symptoms of Severe Food Poisoning

Symptoms of food poisoning often include diarrhea, vomiting, upset stomach, or nausea. According to the Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov) If they persist. Check in with your healthcare provider if you have severe symptoms such as:

  1. Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F
  2. Diarrhea for more than three days that is not improving
  3. Bloody diarrhea
  4. So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down, which can lead to dehydration
  5. Dehydration, which causes symptoms such as dry mouth and throat, feeling dizzy when standing up, and not urinating (peeing) much

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