our Health Index for More Subjects, Conditions and
Basics for Handling Food Safely
Safe steps for food handling, cooking and storage are essential for avoiding food borne illnesses. You can't see, smell or taste bacteria which may be on any food. Follow these safety guidelines to keep pathogens away.
Buy cold food fast: get it home fast
- Never chose packages which are torn or leaking
- Don't buy foods past "sell-by" or expiration dates.
- Put raw meat and poultry into a plastic bag so meat juices wont cross contaminate cooked foods or those eaten raw, such as vegetables or fruit.
- Place refrigerated or frozen items in the shopping cart last, right before heading or the checkout counter.
- When loading the car, keep perishable items inside the air-conditioned car - not in the trunk.
- Drive immediately home from the grocery. If you live further away than 30 minutes bring a cooler with ice from home; place perishables in it.
Safe Storage of Foods
- Unload perishable foods from the car first and immediately refrigerate them. Place securely wrapped packages of raw meat, poultry, or fish in the meat drawer or coldest section of your refrigerator.
- Check the temperature of your unit with an appliance thermometer. To slow bacterial growth, the refrigerator should be 40 degrees F; the frees 0 degrees F.
- Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within 2 days; other beef, veal, lamb or pork, within 3 to 5 days.
- Keep meat and poultry in its package until just before using.
- If freezing meat and poultry in its original package longer than 2 months, over wrap these packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, freezer paper or plastic freezer bags.
- Meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator may be refrozen before or after cooking. If thawed by other methods, cook before refreezing.
Keep Everything Clean
- Wash hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry
- Sanitize cutting boards often in a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water. Wash towels and cloths often in hot water. Wash kitchen towels and cloths often in hot water in washing machine.
- Don't cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and other juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash hands, cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot soapy water.
- Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
Thaw Food Safely
- Refrigerator: Allows slow, safe thawing. make sure thawing juices do not drip on other foods.
- Cold Water: For faster thawing, place food in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge in cold tap water.
- Microwave: Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwave thawing.
Cook all meat and poultry to the proper internal temperatures:
Ground meats to 160 degrees F
Ground poultry to 165 degrees F
Beef to 145 degrees F
Veal and lamb shanks to 145 degrees F
Roasts to 145 degrees F
Chops to 145 degrees F
All cuts of fresh pork to 160 degrees F
Poultry thighs to 180 degrees F
Poultry breasts to 170 degrees F
Serving Foods Safely
Never leave it out over 2 hours (1 hour in temperatures above 90 degrees F): Bacteria that cause food borne illness grow rapidly in room temperature.
Keep Hot Food hot! Cold Food Cold:
- When serving food at a buffet, keep hot food over a heat source and keep cold food on ice. Keep platters of food refrigerated until time to serve or heat them.
- Carry perishable picnic foods in a cooler with a cold pack or ice. Set the cooler in the shade and open the lid as little as possible.
Handing Leftover Safely
- Divide foods into shallow containers for rapid cooling. Put food directly in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Cut turkey off the bone and refrigerate. Slice breast meat, legs and wings may be left whole.
- Use cooked leftover within 4 days.
Meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator may be refrozen
before OR after cooling. If thawed by other methods, cook before
Cold Storage Chart
|Fresh, in shell||3 weeks||do not freeze|
|Raw yolks, white||2 - 4 days||1 year|
|Hard cooked||1 week||do not freeze well|
|Liquid egg substitute,
|3 days||do not freeze|
|Liquid egg substitute,
|10 days||1 year|
Frozen Prepared Dinners (see also Serving Prepared Foods Safely)
|All||Frozen until ready to heat||3 - 4 months|
Deli & Prepared Foods
|Egg salad||3 - 5 days||do not freeze well|
|Chicken, tuna, ham salads||3 - 5 days||do not freeze well|
|Pasta salads||3 - 5 days||do not freeze well|
|Pre-stuffed pork/lamp chops||1 day||do not freeze well|
|Stuffed chicken breasts||1 day||do not freeze well|
|Store-cooked convenience meats||3 - 4 days||do not freeze well|
Hot Dogs & Lunch Meat
|Hot dogs, opened||1 week||1 - 2 months|
|Hot dogs, unopened||2 weeks||1 - 2 months|
|Lunch meat, opened||3 - 5 days||1 - 2 months|
|Lunch meat, unopened||2 weeks||1 - 2 months|
Corned Beef & Ham
|Corned beef, with juice||5 - 7 days||drained, 1 month|
|Refrigerated canned ham
|6 - 9 months||do not freeze|
|opened||3 - 5 days||1 - 2 months|
|Ham, fully cooked, whole||7 days||1 - 2 months|
|Ham, fully cooked, half||3 - 5 days||1 - 2 months|
|Ham, fully cooked, slices||3 - 4 days||1 - 2 months|
Raw Hamburger, Ground & Stew Meats - How long is hamburger meat good for?? And others, of course.
|Hamburger & stew meats||1 - 2 days||3 - 4 months|
|Ground turkey||1 - 2 days||3 - 4 months|
|Ground veal||1 - 2 days||3 - 4 months|
|Ground pork||1 - 2 days||3 - 4 months|
|Ground lamb||1 - 2 days||3 - 4 months|
Soups & Stews
|Vegetable or meat added||3 - 4 days||2 -3 months|
Bacon & Sausage
|Bacon||7 days||1 month|
|Pork sausage||1 - 2 days||1 -2 months|
|Beef sausage||1 - 2 days||1 - 2 months|
|Chicken or turkey sausage||1 - 2 days||1 - 2 months|
|Smoked breakfast links||7 days||1 - 2 months|
|Smoked breakfast patties||7 days||1 - 2 months|
|Refrigerated summer sausage unopened||3 weeks||1 - 2 months|
|opened||3 weeks||1 - 2 months|
|Steaks||3 - 5 days||6 - 12 months|
|Chops||3 - 5 days||4 - 6 months|
|Roasts||3 - 5 days||4 - 12 months|
|Organ meats||1 - 2 days||3 - 4 months|
|Cooked meat and meat dishes||3 - 4 days||2 - 3 months|
|Gravy and meat broth||1 - 2 days||2 - 3 months|
|Chicken or turkey, whole||1 - 2 days||1 year|
|Chicken or turkey, parts||1 - 2 days||9 months|
|Giblets||1 - 2 days||3 - 4 months|
|Fried chicken||3 - 4 days||4 months|
|Cooked poultry dishes||3 - 4 days||4 - 6 months|
|Pieces, plain||3 - 4 days||4 months|
|Pieces, with broth/gravy||1 - 2 days||6 months|
|Chicken nuggets, patties||1 - 2 days||1 -3 months|
Because freezing (0 Degree F) keeps food safe indefinitely, recommended storage times are for quality only.
For more information go to Still Tasty? - Keep it or Toss It? How long will your favorite food or beverage stay safe and tasty? What's the best way to store it?
Vegetables - They are fine frozen. How
to cook frozen vegetables and other info can be found
Quality for Keeps - Freezing Vegetables by the University of Missouri
More info: Call USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline:
Washington DC (202) 720-3333
Fast Food: 1 (800) 238-8281
If you would like to receive the McVitamins Newsletter, Please Sign up here: Newsletter Signup
©2000-2013 McVitamins. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction of this website in full or in part is prohibited without the express written permission of McVitamins.
We have used our best judgment in compiling this information. The Food and Drug Administration may not have evaluated the information presented. Any reference to a specific product is for your information only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Any suggested nutritional supplementation is not intended to be used instead of standard recognized Medical protocol. It is intended to provide the body with recognized essential nutrients and other nutritional elements believed to benefit tissue building/repair and metabolic function. The information is intended to be used in conjunction with recognized Medical treatment and with the approval of a patient's medical doctor. For any suspected/known illness or health concern, always consult your physician or health care provider.