Household Food Safety

How Food Becomes Unsafe


When food contains:

  • Bacteria, parasites, viruses or other microorganisms that grow and produce natural poisons
  • Foreign chemicals, such as cleansers
  • Foreign objects, such as glass or bits of packaging, accidentally mixed into food


When safe food comes into contact with:

  • Unsafe or raw food
  • Unclean utensils, glassware or dishware
  • Unclean work surfaces
  • Dirty hands

You can't always see or smell that food is unsafe - that's why we're so careful to avoid the conditions that can make food unsafe.

When to See a Doctor

You should see a healthcare provider if you have the following symptoms:

  • High fever (temperature over 101.5 F, measured orally)
  • Blood in the stools
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration)
  • Signs of dehydration, including a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up.
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days

Do not be surprised if your doctor does not prescribe an antibiotic. Many diarrheal illnesses are caused by viruses and will improve in 2 or 3 days without antibiotic therapy. In fact, antibiotics have no effect on viruses, and using an antibiotic to treat a viral infection could cause more harm than good.

How to Stay Healthy

  • The 4 Steps to Food Safety
    • Clean: Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces often while preparing and cooking food
    • Separate: Don't cross contaminate; keep raw and cooked foods away from each other
    • Cook: Ensure foods are cooked to the right temperature
    • Chill: Refrigerate and freeze food properly and promptly
      • Cold Food Storage Chart
      • Bacteria can multiply rapidly in food if left at room temperature or in the "Danger Zone" between 40°F and 140°F. Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour if it's hotter than 90°F outside).