1. Wash, wash, wash...your hands, that is. Whether you use soap and water or hand sanitizer, keeping your hands clean at all times, and making sure to wash your hands after you grocery shop, handle raw foods, or sneeze or cough (or even blow your nose) will substantially reduce the likelihood that bacteria or other unwelcome germs will spread and lead to illness.
2. When preparing or cooking food, treat any raw foods (especially beef, poultry, fish, or eggs) as you would fine china--they're breakable and should be handled with care and attention. Never allow raw foods or their juices to come in contact with any other foods or surfaces to minimize the spread of bacteria (if there is any in the food to begin with). Make sure any utensils (cutting boards, knives, or other equipment) you use to handle the food are not used for other foods as well unless they're thoroughly washed beforehand.
3. Cook foods to their proper temperatures. Bacteria multiply rapidly in foods that are between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit; to reduce the risk for foodborne illness, make sure to use a meat thermometer (and clean it with hot soap and water before and after each use) to see how thoroughly meats, poultry, and fish are cooked.
- Poultry, including chicken, turkey, duck and goose, should all be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit
- Raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops) should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit
- Ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit
- Fish and shellfish should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- It's also a great idea to check the temperature of reheated leftovers; most should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Don't leave it out. Food that's been left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours becomes a welcome mat for bacteria; in the hot sun, and when temperatures outside reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the window for keeping food safe decreases to only one hour. Whether you're entertaining at home, or just feeding your family, try to time meals/events so that foods are not left out for longer than one to two hours max.
Sources: Fight Back! Partnership for Food Safety Education http://www.foodsafety.gov/ http://www.fsis.usda.gov/is_it_done_yet/brochure_text/index.asp, shine.com