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 (or other foods containing uncooked eggs or flour
Never eat any raw eggs or uncooked flour because they may contain Salmonella or other harmful bacteria. Instead, cook eggs and items made with flour 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.
Food Recalls & General Food Safety
Confusion over the meaning of dates applied to food products can result in consumers discarding wholesome food. In an effort to reduce food waste, it is important that consumers understand that the dates applied to food are for quality and not for safety. Food products are safe to consume past the date on the label, and regardless of the date, consumers should evaluate the quality of the food product prior to its consumption.
Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law.
What Date-Labeling Phrases are Used? There are no uniform or universally accepted descriptions used on food labels for dating in the United States. As a result, there are a wide variety of phrases used on labels to describe quality dates. Examples of commonly used phrases:
- A "Best if Used By/Before" indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
- A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
- A “Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date.
Foods not exhibiting signs of spoilage should be wholesome and may be sold, purchased, donated and consumed beyond the labeled date. 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.
The same goes for codes on canned products. Codes appear as a series of letters and/or numbers and refer to the date the product was canned. The codes are not meant for the consumer to interpret as a "Best if Used By" date. Cans must exhibit a code or the date of canning. Usually these are "Best if Used By" dates for peak quality. Discard cans that are dented, rusted, or swollen. High-acid canned foods (e.g. tomatoes and fruits) will keep their best quality for 12 to 18 months. Whereas, low-acid canned foods (e.g. meats and vegetables) will keep for two to five years.
Partnership for Food Safety Education website
State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP)
Specific Food Safety Topics