National Food Safety Education Month: Do You Know the 4 Steps for Food Safety?

4 Steps of Food Safety

(Silver Spring, MD) September is National Food Safety Education Month and a great time to learn the basics of food safety.

You’ve heard how important it is to wash your hands and to handle food safely, but do you know the 4 Steps of Food Safety?

Step 1: Clean

  • Rinse fruits or vegetables off under cold water.
  • Don’t forget to rinse off produce that has a skin before you cut it. If there are disease-causing germs (bacteria, viruses) on the skin and you cut it with a knife, the knife can carry the germs into the produce.

Step 2: Separate

  • Step 2 actually starts in your shopping cart! Bag your produce and raw meat, seafood, and poultry in separate plastic bags to keep their juices away from other groceries while you’re shopping. Keep them separate when you get home to prevent cross-contamination.

Step 3: Cook

  • Check the temperature! Make sure food is cooked to a safe internal temperature before you eat it. Not sure what the correct temperature is? Here’s a quick reminder:
    • Poultry should be cooked to 165° F.
    • Ground meat, meat mixtures, and egg dishes should be cooked to 160° F.
    • Beef, pork, ham, should be cooked to 145° F and allowed to rest for three minutes.
    • Fish and seafood should be cooked to 145° F.

Step 4: Chill

  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within 2 hours of purchasing or cooking (or 1 hour if the temperature is over 90° F).
  • Never thaw food on your countertop! For defrosting, stick to using the fridge, cold water, or the microwave.


Handling food safely is important for you and your family. No matter your age, food safety helps keep food at its freshest and most nutritious, reduces food waste, and prevents food poisoning. To help keep your food safe, use FDA’s new Food Safety in Your Kitchen materials to plan your next meal! You’ll find delicious recipes (with steps for food safety already built in), fact sheets, and tips on safe meal prep, storage, and shopping. If you’re under 30, check out FDA’s new Everyday Food Safety materials to learn the essentials of food safety. You’ll find a helpful video and tip sheets on each of the four steps below.


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