Safe Food Preparation

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Eating food that is tainted with germs such as bacteria, viruses or other organisms can cause food-borne illness. This is also known as “food poisoning.” The harmful foods may not taste or smell any different than healthy foods.

Signs and Symptoms

Many people think they have the “stomach flu” when it may really be food-borne illness. Usual symptoms include diarrheavomiting, nausea, fever and cramps. These symptoms usually come on suddenly. The child may also have a bad headache.Call a doctor

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if any of the following occurs:

  • If your child suddenly develops a high fever over 101°F axillary (under the arm).
  • If the stomach pain becomes severe (worse than a few cramps).
  • If the diarrhea gets worse or becomes bloody (more than a streak of blood).
  • If you notice any signs of dehydration: dry mouth; decreased urine output; mouth is dry or sticky; child is listless (no energy); eyes are sunken; infant’s “soft spot” on top of the head “pulls in.”
  • Child does not improve in 24 hours.


Preventing illness starts when you buy food at the grocery store. Besides good hand washing, be sure to follow these three main rules:

  • Keep food clean.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Cook food completely.

Other Food Handling Tips

  • Eggs – Cook eggs until yolks and whites are firm. Avoid recipes that contain raw eggs and don’t sampling cookie dough containing raw eggs.Meat should be fully cooked and kept hot
  • Fruits and vegetables – Scrub all fruits and vegetables well that are to be eaten uncooked.
  • Meats – Cook meat thoroughly. Do not partly grill or cook meat to use later. If you must cook ahead, chill food quickly in the refrigerator for later reheating. Then reheat pre-cooked meats until steaming hot. Marinate raw meat, fish or poultry in the refrigerator - not on the counter. Don’t reuse marinade from raw meat unless you boil it for several minutes to destroy bacteria. When grilling out, cut into the meat, poultry, or fish to make sure it is done. Never put cooked meat back on the same plate that held the raw meat. Use a meat thermometer when cooking inside and out to check the inner temperature of the food.
  • Coolers – If you use a cooler for foods when you’re away from home in warm weather, put the cooler inside an air-conditioned car - not in the trunk. Replace ice if it melts. Keep drinks in their own cooler, away from other foods that may carry bacteria. When preparing foods, wash surfaces and utensils with soap and hot water between uses.
  • Keep paper towels and disposable towelettes for washing hands before and after handling food and after using the bathroom.
  • If you use dishcloths or towels in the kitchen, launder them often with bleach and detergent. “Sour-smelling” sponges should be thrown away.

How to Use the Thermometer

Roasts: Insert thermometer midway without touching the bone.

Hamburgers, Steaks, Chops: Insert thermometer into thickest part of meat.

Poultry: Place thermometer in thickest part of the thigh.

Thin Foods: Insert thermometer sideways so you can take the temperature in the center of the food.

Casseroles and Combination Dishes: Place thermometer in thickest part of the food or center of the dish. 

Food Minimum Internal Temperature
Ground Products
   Hamburger 160°F
   Beef, veal, lamb, pork 160°F
   Chicken, turkey 165°F
Beef, veal, lamb  
   Roasts & steaks  
      Medium-rare 145°F
      Medium 160°F
      Well-done 170°F
   Chops, roasts, ribs  
      Medium  160°F
      Well-done 170°F
   Ham, fresh 160°F
   Sausage, fresh 160°F
   Chicken whole & pieces 165°F
   Duck 165°F
   Turkey (unstuffed) 165°F
      Whole 165°F
      Breast 165°F
      Dark meat 165°F
      Stuffing (cooked separately) 165°F
Fish 165°F
   Fried poached until yolk and whites are firm 160°F
Casseroles, sauces, custards  160°F
Fruits & vegetables (when cooked) 140°F
Leftovers 165°F

Safe Food Preparation (PDF)

HH-IV-79 11/01, Revision 3/09 Copyright 2009, Nationwide Children’s Hospital