Food Safety

Food Safety Basics

Fact sheets & more  | Food Defense 101  | Contact us  |

Almost everyone has experienced foodborne illness, usually called "food poisoning." Often these illnesses are merely uncomfortable and inconvenient and don't require medical care. However, such infections can also result in very serious consequences, including hospitalization and death.

Changes in the way food is processed and distributed, international markets, and consumer demand have altered our food supply. Today, food may reach the table through long chains of production, packaging, and transportation, providing many opportunities for contamination. All these factors increase the risk for foodborne illness.

Although large disease outbreaks associated with restaurants generally get more media attention, it is just as easy for foodborne illness to occur at home. If food is handled and prepared safely, most of these illnesses can be avoided.

Wash hands and surfaces often

USDA Be food safe - Clean
Bacteria is present throughout the kitchen. It can be found on cutting boards, utensils, sponges, counter tops and other surfaces.

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Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate foods

USDA Be food safe icon
Cross-contamination is a term used to describe how bacteria can spread from one food to another. For example, cross contamination can occur when vegetables to be eaten raw come in contact with the liquid from raw meat, poultry and seafood.

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Cook: Heat foods to proper temperatures

Is it done yet? USDA temperature chartIs It Done Yet? Temperature Chart PDF
USDA's recommended internal temperatures for meat and poultry products in handy chart form; Chart also available as a 17 x 11-inch poster PDF

Food safety experts agree that foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time at a high enough temperature to kill any harmful bacteria:

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Chill: Refrigerate foods promptly

USDA Be food safe - Chill
Cold temperatures keep harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerators should be set no higher than 40ºF and freezers set at 0ºF.

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Fact Sheets and Additional Resources

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Refrigerated Food and Power Outages:
When to Save — When to Throw Out

Be food safe - USDA

If you're just not sure, then play it safe

Discard any questionable food items.
It's not worth the risk for you and your family

Is food in the refrigerator safe during a power outage? It should be safe as long as power is out no more than 4 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for over 2 hours.

Never taste food to determine its safety! You can’t rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.

Note: Always discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.

You will have to evaluate each item separately. Use this chart as a guide.

Adapted from Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency (USDA) and

When to Save and When to Throw It Out

Refrigerator Foods

FOOD Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours
Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes

Thawing meat or poultry Discard
Meat, tuna, shrimp,chicken, or egg salad Discard
Gravy, stuffing, broth Discard
Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef Discard
Pizza,  with any topping Discard
Canned hams labeled "Keep Refrigerated" Discard
Canned meats and fish, opened Discard
Soft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco

Hard Cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano Safe
Processed Cheeses Safe
Shredded Cheeses Discard
Low-fat Cheeses Discard
Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar) Safe
Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk

Butter, margarine Safe
Baby formula, opened Discard
Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products

Custards and puddings Discard
Fresh fruits, cut

Fruit juices, opened Safe
Canned fruits, opened Safe
Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates Safe
Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish
Discard if above 50 °F for over 8 hrs.
Peanut butter Safe
Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles Safe
Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, Hoisin sauces Safe
Fish sauces (oyster sauce) Discard
Opened vinegar-based dressings Safe
Opened creamy-based dressings Discard
Spaghetti sauce, opened jar Discard
Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas

Refrigerator biscuits,rolls, cookie dough Discard
Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes Discard
Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette Discard
Fresh pasta Discard
Cheesecake Discard
Breakfast foods—waffles, pancakes, bagels Safe
Pastries, cream filled

Pies—custard,cheese filled, or chiffon; quiche Discard
Pies, fruit Safe
Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices

Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged Discard
Vegetables, raw Safe
Vegetables, cooked; tofu Discard
Vegetable juice, opened Discard
Baked potatoes Discard
Commercial garlic in oil Discard
Potato Salad Discard

Frozen Foods

FOOD Still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigerated Thawed.
Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours
Beef, veal, lamb, pork, and ground meats


Poultry and ground poultry Refreeze Discard
Variety meats (liver, kidney, heart, chitterlings) Refreeze Discard
Casseroles, stews, soups Refreeze Discard
Fish, shellfish, breaded seafood products Refreeze. However, there will be some texture and flavor loss. Discard

Refreeze. May lose some texture.

Eggs (out of shell) and egg products Refreeze Discard
Ice cream, frozen yogurt Discard Discard
Cheese (soft and semi-soft) Refreeze. May lose some texture. Discard
Hard cheeses Refreeze Refreeze
Shredded cheeses Refreeze Discard
Casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheeses Refreeze Discard
Cheesecake Refreeze Discard


Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.
Home or commercially packaged Refreeze. Will change texture and flavor. Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.


Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.
Home or commercially packaged or blanched Refreeze. May suffer texture and flavor loss. Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.
Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)


Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling Refreeze Discard
Pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread dough Refreeze. Some quality loss may occur. Refreeze. Quality loss is considerable.
Casseroles—pasta, rice based
Refreeze Discard
Flour, cornmeal, nuts Refreeze Refreeze
Breakfast items—waffles, pancakes, bagels Refreeze Refreeze
Frozen meal, entree, specialty items (pizza, sausage and biscuit, meat pie,convenience foods) Refreeze Discard

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Food Defense 101

Be a part of the Team to Protect our Nation’s Food Supply

The food industry plays an integral part in protecting the nation’s food infrastructure. The FDA's Food Defense 101 provides training in preparedness against an intentional attack to our food supply. The courses provide an understanding of and guidance for developing a Food Defense Plan(s) based on a common sense approach. Food Defense 101 is comprised of four courses:

Learn more, and get started today.

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Contact us

Vermont Department of Health
Food and Lodging Program
108 Cherry St., PO Box 70
Burlington, VT 05402

Tel. 800-439-8550 or 802-863-7221

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