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Food Safety for Individuals

Food safety is the primary focus of the City of Milwaukee Health Department's Consumer Environmental Health group. Our web page for businesses has information on the more stringent rules they are held to. Food handling safety risks are more common than most people think.

Follow These Four Easy Steps To Help Your Family Be Food Safe.

Clean. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get on hands, cutting boards, knives, and countertops. Frequent cleaning can keep that from happening.

WASH hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food.

RUN cutting boards and utensils through the dishwasher or wash them in hot soapy water after each use.
KEEP countertops clean by washing with hot soapy water after preparing food.
Separate. Cross-contamination is how bacteria spreads. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat food.
USE one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and another for salads and ready-to-eat food.
KEEP raw meat, poultry, and seafood and their juices apart from other food items in your grocery cart.
STORE raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a container or on a plate so juices can't drip on other foods.
Cook. Even for experienced cooks, the improper heating and preparation of food means bacteria can survive.
USE a food thermometer—you can't tell food is cooked safely by how it looks.
STIR, rotate the dish, and cover food when microwaving to prevent cold spots where bacteria can survive.

BRING sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.


Chill. Bacteria spreads fastest at temperatures between 40 °F - 140 °F, so chilling food properly is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
COOL the fridge to 40 °F or below, and use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature.
CHILL leftovers and takeout foods within 2 hours, and divide food into shallow containers for rapid cooling.
THAW meat, poultry, and seafood in the fridge, not on the counter, and don't overstuff the fridge.

10 Common Food Safety Mistakes

Mistake #1: Tasting Food to see if it's still good Never taste your food to check if it has spoiled. You can't taste, see, or even smell the bacteria that cause food poisoning, and tasting just a tiny bit of contaminated food can cause serious illness.
Mistake #2: Putting cooked or ready-to-eat foods back on a plate that held raw meat

Never let raw meat, poultry, or seafood touch cooked meat or any ready-to-eat foods, as this can cause cross-contamination. Foodborne pathogens from the raw meat can easily spread to ready-to-eat foods and cause food poisoning, yet 24% of Americans report not properly separating these foods.

Make sure you always use separate plates, cutting boards, and utensils to keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods.

Mistake #3: Thawing food on the counter

Never thaw food on the counter. Harmful foodborne pathogens multiply rapidly when foods are in the danger zone- between 41°F and 135°F.

Instead, always thaw foods in the refrigerator, cold running water, or in the microwave.

Mistake #4: Washing meat or poultry Never wash raw meat or poultry because the water can easily spread bacteria to your sink, countertops and other kitchen surfaces. Only wash raw fruits and vegetables
Mistake #5: Letting food cool before putting it in the fridge

Don't leave food out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours or 1 hour if it is over 90°F outside. Illness-causing bacteria can grow rapidly when perishables are left in the danger zone- between 41°F and 135°F.

Instead, always refrigerate foods in a timely manner. If you are on a road trip, tailgating, or picnicking be sure to packer perishable foods in a well-insulated cooler.

Mistake #6: Eating raw cookie dough or batter (other foods containing uncooked eggs) Never eat any raw eggs because they may contain Salmonella or other harmful bacteria. Instead, cook eggs thoroughly, avoid foods that contain raw or undercooked eggs
Mistake #7: Marinating meat or seafood on the counter/ using raw meat marinade on cooked food

Never marinate meat, poultry, or seafood on the counter or use the same marinade for raw meat and cooked food. If you marinate on the counter, harmful germs can multiply rapidly when left in the danger zone- between 41°F and 135°F. In addition, if you use the same marinade on raw and cooked meats, the harmful bacteria from the raw food can spread to the cooked food.

Always marinate raw meat, seafood, and poultry in the refrigerator and only reuse marinade if you bring it to a boil just before using

Mistake #8: Undercooking meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs Cooked food is safe only after it's been heated to a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria. In order to avoid eating undercooked foods, you must use a food thermometer- the only way to determine if cooked foods are safe to eat.
Mistake #9: Not washing your hands

Illness-causing bacteria can survive in many places- including on your hands. Washing your hands the right way can stop the spread of these bacteria.

Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm running water.

Mistake #10: Not replacing sponges and dish rags

Ironically, sponges, dishrags, and items used to clean are some of the dirtiest tools in your kitchen. Sponges and dishrags can hold on to harmful foodborne pathogens and cause a serious health risk.

Always sanitize your sponges at least every other day and replace them every week or two for best protection against germs.


Kitchen Safety

  • HOW FOOD SAFE IS YOUR KITCHEN? Here is a checklist that can help you answer those questions.

  • How to properly use a thermometer: Video

Foodborne Illness

Food Recalls 

Visit the USDA'S Food Safety and Inspection Service for current recall information:

General Food Safety


In the United States, different dating systems are used on products.  Some are “expiration dates.”  Others are “best if used by” dates.  Still others are “sell by dates.”  Regardless of the dating format, no product suddenly becomes “unsafe” on the date printed on the product.  Product dating is used to ensure that product is rotated properly during distribution and to ensure that the consumer has a positive eating experience. The dates are designed to ensure that products are high quality for the consumer and have little, if anything, to do with food safety though they are often thought of in this manner. For more information on product dates click on the Food product dating link under Important Links below

Partnership for Food Safety Education

Visit the Partnership for Food Safety Education website to find additional information on food safety:

Specific Food Safety Topics

State of Wisconsin Food Safety Agencies

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Consumer Environmental Health Information and Licensing

Convenience Store Security

Requirements of the City of Milwaukee's Convenience Store Security Ordinance.

Farmers' Markets Food Licensing & Sanitation

Information on the sale of food and licensing for farmers' market vendors.

Food Safety for Individuals

Information for individuals and businesses on how to safely handle and cook food.

Mobile Food Establishments

Sanitation and licensing requirements for mobile food vendors (food carts/ trucks).

Opening a Food Business

Links to resources needed to open a food business in Milwaukee.

Tattoos & Body Piercing

Licensing information for tattoo parlors and piercing shops along with health information for those who are considering or who have just recently gotten tattoos/health/piercings.

Temporary Event Food Licensing & Sanitation

Sanitation and licensing requirements for temporary food vendors at events in Milwaukee.

Weights and Measures Licensing

Obtain a license for your weighing or measuring device operating in the city of Milwaukee.