by Jyl Steinback
Wash your hands often, especially before and after handling raw food.
Keep raw meats and poultry separate from other foods.
Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and poultry.
Cook foods to proper internal temperatures: ground meats to 160°F; ground poultry to 165°F; beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts and chops may be cooked to 145°F; all cuts of fresh pork to at least 160°F; whole poultry should reach 180°F in the thigh, 170°F in the breast.
For rapid cooling, divide cooked foods into small, shallow containers to store in refrigerator or freezer until serving.
Refrigerate cooked foods at temperatures below 40°F.
The USDA recommends keeping hot foods hot (above 140°F) and cold foods cold (below 40°F).
Throw away any foods kept at temperatures between 41 to 139°F for more than 2 hours, because at these temperatures, any bacteria present can double every 20 to 30 minutes.
Most leftovers are safe in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. They are safe indefinitely in the freezer but are best if used within 2 to 4 months. All leftovers should be reheated to 165°F.
Do not taste food until it has reached a safe internal temperature.
Never partially cook food you plan to finish cooking later. This will increase the risk of bacterial growth on the food. Bacteria are killed when foods reach a safe internal temperature.
It is safe to reduce oven temperature by 25°F when using a convection oven. Check the manufacturer's directions for additional information.
Safe microwaving tips:
Stir or rotate food halfway through cooking time to eliminate cold spots and guarantee more even cooking.
Cover food with microwave-safe wrap.
Foods can be partially cooked in the microwave only if the food is immediately finished cooking by baking, broiling, grilling or stir- frying.
Follow recipe instructions for "standing times" as foods finish cooking once removed from microwave.