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Food Handling Guidelines

handling raw ground meat

Tips for Preventing Food Poisoning

You can't see, smell, or taste any of the harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning. That's why handling food safely is essential to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Follow these food handling safety tips when you shop for, prepare, thaw, cook, and serve food. It will help ensure your safety and help you to protect your family from food poisoning and trips to the doctor or hospital.


  • Always purchase refrigerated or frozen items after you shop for non-perishables. It will keep these items cold for as long as possible, until you can put them in your freezer or refrigerator at home.
  • Never purchase meat, poultry, or fish if the product's packaging is torn, open, or leaking.
  • Don't buy food past its expiration date.


  • Always wash your hands before and after handling food.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats and fish, wash your hands, cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot, soapy water.
  • When marinating meat and poultry in the refrigerator, use a covered dish to avoid having any of the juices spill onto other food.
  • You can sanitize cutting boards with a solution containing 1 teaspoon of bleach and 1 quart of water.


  • Don't just allow meat or poultry to sit on the counter to thaw for hours. Use a refrigerator when possible, as it allows for slow and safe thawing. Just make sure meat and poultry juices don't drip onto other foods.
  • You can use cold water to thaw your meats and poultry faster. Place food in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge it in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until your food is completely thawed. Cook immediately after thawing.
  • You can also thaw meat and poultry in the microwave by using its defrosting settings. Just make sure you enter the correct weight, so your food doesn't roast as well. Once thawed, cook the food immediately.

Cooking & Serving

Allow meat to sit untouched for at least three minutes before carving or consuming, so that your meat can continue cooking. Check the internal temperature of fish, meat, and poultry to be sure it's ready to eat. Use the chart below from FoodSafety.gov for recommended minimum temperatures.

Type of Food Food Items Temperature (°F) Rest Time (Prior to Consuming)
Ground meat/mixed meat Beef, pork,
veal, lamb
Turkey, chicken
Beef, veal, lamb Steak, roast, chops 145°F 3 minutes
Poultry Chicken/turkey whole Poultry breasts/roasts Poultry thighs, legs, wings Duck and goose Stuffing (cooked alone or in poultry) 165°F
165°F 165°F
None None
Pork and ham Fresh pork
Fresh ham (raw)
Precooked ham
145°F 145°F
3 minutes 3 minutes
Eggs and egg dishes Eggs
Egg dishes
Cook until yolk and white are firm
Seafood Fish

Shrimp, lobster, crab Clams, oysters, mussels Scallops
145°F or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque Cook until shells open during cooking Cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm None

Leftovers/casseroles Leftovers Casseroles 165°F

If you are serving food at a buffet, keep food hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Additionally, have individual utensils for each additional food.

Victim of Food Poisoning? Learn About Your Legal Options

If you became a victim of food poisoning and have medical bills and missed work time, protect your legal rights. Contact the Pennsylvania law firm of Edgar Snyder & Associates right away by calling 1-866-943-3427, or fill out the form at the top right of this webpage for a no obligation, free legal consultation.

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