Separate: Don't Cross-Contaminate!
Raw meat can make you sick. Everyone knows that. But even if you follow proper cooking temperatures, you still may be at risk for food poisoning if you don't properly separate your foods to prevent cross-contamination.
Cross-contamination can spread bacteria when juices from raw meats or germs from unclean objects touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods. By following a few simple steps as you handle, store, shop and cook foods, you can greatly reduce your risk of food poisoning.
At the grocery store separate fresh, frozen or raw meat; poultry; seafood and eggs from produce and ready-to-eat foods in your shopping cart and grocery bags. If you are reusable grocery totes to transport groceries, place the meat, poultry and seafood in plastic bags to prevent juices from leaking. Place groceries in the back seat, not the trunk of a vehicle.
When storing food, refrigerate or freeze groceries within two hours. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of a refrigerator in a sealed container or plastic bag. This will ensure juices don't drip onto ready-to-eat foods and cause contamination. Keep eggs in their original carton and store on shelves of refrigerator — not in the door. Store your reusable totes in a clean, dry location and wash frequently with hot, soapy water or in the washing machine. And avoid leaving reusable totes in the trunk of a vehicle.
Special precautions should be taken when preparing food. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before, during and after handling raw meats and foods. Wash plates between uses or use separate plates: one for holding raw meat, poultry or seafood; and another for cooked foods. Place washed produce into clean storage containers, not back into the original ones. Be aware of the tools used during cooking — never use the same knife used for raw meat, poultry or seafood to chop produce or ready-to-eat foods. Use one cutting board for meat, poultry and seafood, and a separate cutting board for produce and ready-to-eat foods.
For more information on how to reduce your risk of food poisoning, tip sheets, and educational games and videos, visit HomeFoodSafety.org.
Reviewed April 2013