Food Safety

Each year, 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) gets sick from and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Reducing foodborne illness by just 10% would keep 5 million Americans from getting sick each year. Preventing a single fatal case of E. coli O157 infection would save an estimated $7 million. (CDC)

Food safety is an important factor when preparing food, not only for restaurants that serve the public, but also at home when preparing meals for friends and family. The Chester County Health Department offers the following information to assist county residents in preparing and storing food in a safe manner.
CLEAN - Wash Hands & Surfaces Often
Illness-causing bacteria can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and running water. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Washing your hands is one of the best defenses against the spread of illness-causing bacteria. Take the Hand Washing Quiz!
  • Wash surfaces and utensils after each use. Rinsing utensils, countertops, and cutting boards with water won't stop bacteria from spreading. Clean utensils and small cutting boards with hot, soapy water. Clean surfaces and cutting boards with a bleach solution.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables but not meat, poultry, or eggs. Even if you plan to peel fruits and veggies, it's important to wash them first because bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside as you cut or peel them.
  • Take the Handwashing Quiz!
SEPARATE - Don't Cross-Contaminate
Even after you've washed your hands and cleaned all surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods unless you keep them separate.
  • Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils for raw (uncooked) produce and for raw (uncooked) meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
  • Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods while you're shopping at the grocery store.
  • Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the refrigerator.

COOK to the Right Temperature

While many people think they can tell when food is done simply by checking its color and texture, there's no way to be sure it's safe without following a few important but simple steps.

  • Make sure food reaches its safe minimum cooking temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure. Use the Safe Cooking Temperature Chart for guidance on proper cooking temperatures.
  • During meal times, while food is being served and eaten, keep it hot (140 °F or above).
  • After meals are over, refrigerate leftover food quickly.
  • Microwave food thoroughly (165 °F).
Safe Cooking Temperature Chart

CHILL - Refrigerate Promptly

Illness-causing bacteria can grow in many foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them. (During the summer heat, cut that time down to one hour.)
  • Refrigerate the foods that tend to spoil more quickly (like fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, and meats) within two hours. Warm foods will chill faster if they are divided into several clean, shallow containers.
  • Thaw or marinate foods in the refrigerator, never on the counter or in the kitchen sink.
  • Know when to throw food out. For specific information on how long food will last in the refrigerator or freezer, check the Cold Storage Chart.
A refrigerator should maintain a temperature of 40°F and a freezer, a temperature of 0°F. If you don't know the temperatures of your refrigerator or freezer, use the proper thermometers to determine if you are storing food safely.