Nutrition Check: Food Safety Education Month

By Kristen Hicks-Roof PhD, RDN, LDN, CLC
[email protected]

Food safety helps to prevent foodborne illness and injury; it includes the process from food preparation to food handling to food storage. As the weather turns cooler and you begin to have barbecues and get-togethers, it is important to ensure that your food is safe that you are serving people. Food safety can best be remembered as the “Four C’s”: clean, contain, cook, and chill.  

Clean: It is important to clean your hands for at least 20 seconds using soapy water. You can hum the “Happy Birthday” song to ensure you wash your hands thoroughly. Next, you want to clean all surfaces that will be used in food preparation and while handing food. Surfaces may include cutting boards, counter tops, and cooking utensils.

Contain: Containment is ultimately used to prevent cross contamination. The best way to remember it is keeping all cutting boards and cooking utensils separate for raw meat and seafood, and all other ingredients. This ensures that no foodborne pathogens contaminate your cooking area or your meal.

Cook: Follow the USDA guidelines for minimum cooking temperatures for meat, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods. You can always use a food thermometer to check!

Food Safety Chart (

Food Type Internal Temperature (°F)
Ground meat Beef, pork, veal, lamb 160°
Poultry All poultry (breasts, thighs etc.) 165°
Pork and ham Fresh pork/ham 145°
Seafood Shrimp, lobster, crab, scallops Cook until flesh is pearly white
Seafood Clams, oysters, mussels Cook until shells open
Leftovers/Casseroles All  165°

Chill: Once your meal is cooked, make sure that you keep it at the appropriate temperature. Hot food should stay hot and cold food should stay cold. Try to not leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours. 

Kristen K. Hicks-Roof Ph.D., RDN, LDN, CLC is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida.