Milwaukee Health Department Coronavirus COVID-19 Updates: The City of Milwaukee Health Department is monitoring the novel Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. Questions about the coronavirus? Call 2-1-1 for assistance.

Food Safety for Individuals 

Food safety is the primary focus of the City of Milwaukee Health Department's Consumer Environmental Health Division. 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


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 & General Food Safety

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

Expiration Dates

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

State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP):

Specific Food Safety Topics

This site is powered by the Northwoods Titan Content Management System