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Food Safety for Food Workers

Most foodborne illness can be avoided by handling food properly. Foods from animal sources and cooked beans, rice and pasta are especially risky. These foods are "Potentially Hazardous Foods" (PHFs). Follow these basic food safety principles and practices to keep the food you prepare and serve safe to eat. These recommendations are consistent with the FDA 1999 Food Code.



Key Principle Hazard Food Safety Message
Be in Good Health Microbiological
  • Don't prepare food when you are ill or have an open cut or sore on your hands or arms.
  • Report illnesses to the manager.
  • Avoid coughing and sneezing in food areas.
Practice Good
Personal Hygiene
hand washing

Always wash your hands after you:

  • use the restroom.
  • cough, sneeze, or use a handkerchief or tissue.
  • work with raw foods.
  • handle dirty equipment or utensils.
  • take out the garbage.
  • Use a designated hand sink.
Physical Contamination
  • Wear clean clothing on the job.
and Physical
  • Wear effective hair restraint while working in a food preparation area.
  • Don't eat, drink or smoke while preparing food.
  • Keep nails trimmed.


Key Principle Hazard Food Safety Message
Time and

During Receiving
Bacterial Growth,
Toxin Production

Keep foods out of the "Danger Zone": 41ºF - 140ºF

  • Use a calibrated food thermometer to check food temperatures.

Receive and store food at proper temperatures

  • Refrigerated foods at 41ºF or below.
  • Frozen foods at 0ºF or below.
During Preparation Bacterial Growth, Toxin Production Thaw frozen foods in:
  • Refrigerator.
  • Potable cold running water below 70ºF for 2 hours or less.
  • Microwave oven followed by cooking or as part of the cooking process.
Control Time & Temperature
During Cooking
thermometer in roasting chicken
Bacterial Survival,
Toxin Production

Cook each food to proper internal temperature:

  • 165ºF for 15 seconds:
    poultry, stuffed meat, fish, pasta and stuffing containing meat, poultry or fish.
  • 165ºF for 15 seconds:
    ground poultry, turkey.
  • 155ºF for 15 seconds or 158ºF instantaneously: for ground meats (comminuted and injected meats) and the following comminuted:
    fish, meat and raw eggs not prepared for immediate consumption.
  • 145ºF for 15 seconds:
    fish, meat, pork and raw shell eggs that are intended for immediate service.
  • 145ºF for 3 minutes:
    whole beef roasts, whole pork roasts and corned beef roasts.
  • 145ºF on the top and bottom surface
    of a beef steak labeled to indicate that it meets the definition of "whole muscle intact beef."
  • 165ºF raw animal foods
    cooked in a microwave.
During Holding Bacterial Growth,
Toxin Production
  • Hold hot Potentially Hazardous Foods (PHFs) at 140ºF and above.
  • Hold cold PHFs at 41ºF or below.
During Cooling
cooling food  in an ice bath
Bacterial Growth,
Toxin Production

Cool cooked Potentially Hazardous Foods (PHFs):

  • 140ºF to 70ºF in 2 hours or less.
  • 70ºF to 41ºF in 4 hours or less.
  • Cool foods prepared cold to 41ºF or less within 4 hours.
  • Date and mark cold foods prepared on-site and held for more than 24 hours with the date of discard:
    • at 41ºF - 7 days including date of preparation
    • at 45ºF - 4 days including date of preparation
  • Cool foods in shallow containers (4 inches or less).
During Reheating Bacterial Survival
and Growth,
Toxin Production
  • Rapidly reheat PHFs to 165ºF (2 hours or less) and hold at 140ºF.


Key Principle Hazard Food Safety Message
Protect Food from
plastic gloves
  • Prevent bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods by using utensils like disposable gloves, deli tissue, spatulas, tongs or dispensing utensils.
  • Minimize bare-hand contact with exposed foods that are not in ready-to-eat form.
  • Store food in covered containers or original packaging.
  • Do not store packaged food in absorbent packaging in direct contact with ice or water.
  • Do not store unpackaged food in direct contact with undrained ice.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before cooking or serving.
  • Store foods in a clean, dry location that is not subject to splash, dust or other contaminants and is 6 inches above the floor.
separate cutting boards for fish and veggies
  • Separate raw animal foods from ready-to-eat animal foods and other ready-to-eat foods (sushi, molluscan shellfish, fruits and vegetables) during storage, preparation, holding and serving.
  • Clean and sanitize food thermometers before and after each temperature check of raw and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Do not mix raw animal foods with cooked food.
Keep Food Contact
Surfaces Clean
bucket and cleaning rag

Clean and sanitize food contact equipment and utensils:

  • Before you use a different type of raw animal food (beef, fish, lamb, pork and poultry).
  • When you change from working with raw foods to working with ready-to-eat foods.
  • Between preparing raw fruits and vegetables and Potentially Hazardous Foods.
  • At any time during the operation when contamination may have occurred.
  • Every 4 hours if used with Potentially Hazardous Foods at room temperature greater than 55ºF.
  • Clean and sanitize food thermometers before using and storing.


Key Principle Hazard Food Safety Message
Consider the Source and the Condition of the Food Microbiological, Physical and Chemical Contamination
  • Use foods from approved suppliers.
  • Do not use food prepared in a private home.
  • Do not use food from bulging or dented cans or from damaged packaging.
Use Safe
faucet with drop
Microbiological and
Chemical Contamination
  • Use only safe, potable water.
  • Ice for food use must be made from potable water.
Use Safe
Microbiological and
Chemical Contamination
  • Protect food from contamination during transportation.
  • Transport in clean vehicles and equipment.
  • Keep refrigerated foods cold (41ºF or below).
  • Keep hot foods hot (140ºF or above).
Use and Store
Chemicals and
Pesticides Safely
poison symbol
  • Store and use only chemicals that are absolutely necessary.
  • Use chemicals in accordance with manufacturers' instructions.
  • Do not store chemicals where they can contaminate food equipment, utensils, linens and single service/single use articles.
  • Only licensed individuals should apply pesticides.
  • Food Safety
    in the Home
  • Food Safety
    in the Workplace
  • Clean
  • Separate
  • Cook and Chill
  • All food safety education materials are consistent with Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 
    Food Protection Program, FDA and USDA regulations and messages.

    Developed for the Massachusetts Partnership for Food Safety Education by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and University of Massachusetts Extension Nutrition Education Program. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, an Affirmative Action employer, is committed to ensuring that all of its programs and facilities are accessible to all members of the public. We do not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.