10 facts about food safety + tips to prevent food poisoning

Man washing dishes at a sink.

How cold should you keep your fridge?
What temperature should pork be cooked to?
Are some people more likely to get food poisoning than others?

When it comes to food safety, many of us could use a refresher on the basics.

10 key facts and tips about food safety from the CDC

1. Shop smart

At the grocery store, pick up meat, poultry and seafood last so they stay cold as long as possible. Separate them from other food in your shopping cart and grocery bags to prevent contamination of foods you may eat raw.

2. Know when to wash

Wash fruits and vegetables before peeling to remove dirt and bacteria. Don’t wash meat, poultry or eggs as you could accidentally splash contaminated water and spread bacteria in your kitchen.

3. Stay separate, stay safe

Use one cutting board for produce and one for raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs. Clean each cutting board with hot, soapy water between uses or run them through the dishwasher.

4. Remember: fridge = 40, freezer = 0

To ensure all your food stays in the safe zone, keep your refrigerator at or below 40°F and your freezer at 0°F.

5. Meat matters

Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to the right temperature:

  • 165°F for chicken
  • 160°F for hamburgers or other ground meats
  • 145°F for seafood, pork, beef, lamb and fish

6. Mind your marinade

Throw out marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat juices. If you plan to use the marinade as a sauce, boil it for at least 5 minutes at 212°F to kill any bacteria.

7. Serve smart

If you’re setting out food for friends and family:

  • Keep hot foods at 140°F or warmer
  • Keep cold foods at 40°F or colder
  • Throw out perishable food after 2 hours at room temperature, or after 1 hour if it’s 90°F or warmer (such as at a picnic, tailgate or barbecue).

8. Don’t wait to refrigerate leftovers

If you eat out, refrigerate your leftovers within 2 hours, and be sure to eat them within 3 to 4 days.

9. Understand who’s at risk

Some people are more likely to get food poisoning than others. While it can affect anyone, some people are more likely to get sick because their bodies can’t fight germs as well.

Those groups include:

  • Adults ages 65+
  • Children under age 5
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Pregnant women

10. Know the 5 signs of danger 

Severe food poisoning may require treatment. Contact a healthcare provider if you experience any of these 5 signs:

  1. Fever higher than 102°F
  2. Frequent vomiting
  3. Bloody diarrhea
  4. Dehydration
  5. Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days

More food safety tips from WellTuned

What do I have: food poisoning, stomach flu or food allergy?

8 tips to organize your fridge and keep food safe

Pregnancy food guide: what you should and shouldn’t eat

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.

Filed under: Food & Recipes


Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).