Foodborne Illness Prevention

produce in fridge

Tips to Protect Yourself and Your Family From Food Poisoning

There are many different things you can do to avoid food poisoning. One of the most important ways is to carefully purchase, store, and handle food. It is vital that people understand the dangers and risks involved with foodborne illnesses.

There is no guarantee against food poisoning, but proper care and safety measures can help minimize these risks. For more information on protecting your family from food poisoning, view our Food Poisoning Prevention infographic.

Purchasing Food and Drink Products

Remember, the first step in safety isn't about cleanliness in the kitchen. A clean kitchen is essential, but the first step occurs when purchasing and storing the food. Always make sure to buy foods with expiration dates as far in the future as possible. If the item doesn't have an expiration date, make sure you label it with the purchase date. Do not purchase anything in cracked jars or swollen cans, as they can have bacteria. Also remember to visibly inspect food for spoilage and throw it away if you see signs of mold or decay.

Below is a chart for storage methods and shelf lives of various foods. Click here for a complete list of foods and tips for storage.

Fruit/Vegetable Storage Method/Time Tips
Apples Room temperature: 1-2 days
Refrigerator: up to 1 month
Ripen apples at room temperature. Once they are ripe, store them unwashed in plastic bags in the crisper.
Bananas Room temperature: 1-2 days Ripen bananas at room temperature.
Broccoli Refrigerator: 3-5 days Store broccoli unwashed in plastic bags.
Grapes Refrigerator: 3-5 days Store grapes unwashed in plastic bags.
Lettuce and greens Refrigerator: 5-7 days for lettuce; 1-2 days for greens Store them unwashed in plastic bags in the refrigerator.
Tomatoes Refrigerator: 2-3 days for fully ripe tomatoes Ripen tomatoes at room temperature before storing.

Product Refrigerator Freezer
Bacon 7 days 1 month
Sausage, raw from pork, beef, chicken, or turkey 1-2 days 1-2 months
Steaks 3-5 days 6-12 months
Chicken or turkey, whole 1-2 days 1 year
Cooked fish 3-4 days 4-6 months

Product Refrigerator Freezer
Eggs 4-5 weeks Don't freeze
Milk 5-7 days after its "sell by" date Flavor of milk will be affected, generally not recommended
Yogurt 7-10 days opened 6 weeks unopened
Margarine 4-6 months

Food Storage Safety

One of the easiest ways for good food to go bad is improper storage techniques. Remember, proper food storage varies based on what type of food you stored and where you keep it.

Refrigerators help to keep away the growth of bacteria while storing food, but they can only slow down growth for a short time. For best results, keep your refrigerator at or below 40° F, and check it once a week. Different types of food require different storage techniques:

  • Foods that need to be the coldest, such as raw meat and milk, should be kept in the back.
  • Cheeses should be wrapped in wax paper and placed in plastic wrap.
  • Vegetables and fruits should be stay in a crisper lined with paper towels to absorb condensation.

These different items also have different lasting times. For instance:

  • Use ready-to-eat foods, such as lunchmeat, as soon as possible.
  • Use chicken or egg salad, fish, and shellfish within a day.
  • Use cooked meat and poultry within 3 days, uncooked within 2 days.
  • Use salsa, tomato sauce, soups, and casseroles within a week.
  • Eggs can usually last up to 5 weeks past their expiration dates, and butter can last for 2 months.

During a power outage, a refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours with a closed door.

Freezers typically provide a longer shelf life for food than a refrigerator. This does not mean, however, that they are infallible. For best results, keep your freezer at or below 0° F and check it once a week. Different items have varying lasting times:

  • Use ground meat within 3 months, pork within 6 months, bacon within 2 months, and poultry within 4 months if whole (6 months if cut). Beef, lamb, and veal can last as long as 8 months.
  • Flour, butter, fruits, and vegetables can all last 6 months.
  • Use nuts within 2 months.
  • Home-cooked foods last up to 1 month.

In the case of a power outage, a full freezer will keep temperature for about 48 hours with a closed door.

Proper Food Handling

Once it is time to prepare or eat food, continue to use caution in the kitchen. Do not eat any item, whether stored in the refrigerator or freezer, if it is moldy -- and keep those items away from other food. Immediately throw away anything with black mold. Make sure to wash your hands in hot, soapy water before and after preparing food. Also thoroughly wash anything that comes in contact with food -- to prevent cross-contamination. Use separate utensils and cutting boards, especially when dealing with meat, poultry, or fish.

Victim of Food Poisoning? We're Here to Help

Unsure if the eggs you purchased at the grocery store are making you sick? Wondering if the meal you had at your favorite restaurant is causing your health problems? We can help and you may have a case. Your safety is the most important thing, so immediately seek medical help. It's also important to get in contact with a lawyer as soon as possible.

Call Edgar Snyder & Associates toll free at 412-394-1000 or get a free legal consultation online by filling out the form at the top right of this webpage. Or, you can use our easy and convenient "click-to-call" service.