Food Safety

Knowing how to safely handle and prepare foods is an important step in helping your loved one eat right and avoid infection.

The safe handling and preparation of food is an important part of good nutrition. Unfortunately, many individuals assume that they are handling and preparing food in a safe manner when, in fact, they are not. So, how do you know whether the food that you and your loved one eat is safe?

Several factors, including grocery shopping, storage, preparation, and reheating, are important to food safety. By reading over the list below and following these basic guidelines, you can help ensure that the food you serve to your loved one is safe.


  • Shop for groceries last, and then go straight home. Don’t leave food in the car while you run other errands
  • Don’t buy anything with torn or damaged packaging such as cans with dents.
  • Don’t buy anything that you won’t use before the use-by date. Look for the latest use-by date available for each item you want.
  • Buy refrigerated and frozen foods last.
  • Only buy refrigerated foods that are cold to the touch and frozen foods that are completely solid.


  • Make sure that your refrigerator is set at about 40° F and the freezer at 0° F.
  • Immediately freeze fresh fish, meat, or poultry if you’re not going to eat it within the next few days.
  • Immediately place fresh fish, meat, or poultry that you are going to refrigerate on a plate so that nothing drips on other food.
  • Refreeze food only if it still contains ice-crystals or if it is refrigerator cold.
  • Throw out any foods kept for an unknown amount of time.
  • Don’t taste food that looks or smells strange—dispose of it immediately.
  • Remember that molds grow under the surface of things. Throw food items with mold on them away. If you want to save moldy cheese, be sure to cut off a large portion around the moldy section.


  • Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before preparing foods.
  • Wash your kitchen towels and cloths often. Replace kitchen sponges once every two weeks.
  • Thaw and marinate foods in the microwave or refrigerator—but not on the kitchen counter—to avoid bacteria growth.
  • Keep raw fish, meat, and poultry juices away from other foods. Wash cutting boards and counters after cutting raw meats and before preparing other foods.
  • Use plastic cutting boards rather than wooden ones to cut down on bacteria.


  • Always cook thoroughly. Visually, fish flakes with a fork, red meat turns brown or gray (cook at 160° F), and poultry juice runs clear (cook at 180° F).
  • Use an oven or meat thermometer to check food.
  • Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. Avoid recipes that call for raw or partially cooked eggs.
  • When you cook ahead, divide food into smaller portions to refrigerate.
  • When microwaving, cover food with a vented lid or piece of plastic wrap that doesn’t touch the food.
  • When microwaving, rotate the food once or twice during cooking if the microwave doesn’t automatically rotate.
  • Always cook for the entire time given on the package regardless of how “done” you feel the food is.


  • Always use clean dishes and utensils. Do not serve food with the utensils or dishes that were used to prepare it.
  • Don’t leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.
  • Serve cold food in or on ice and on multiple smaller platters.
  • Pack lunches or snacks in insulated carriers with a cold pack. Try to leave the carrier in a cool place.
  • Storing and Reheating
  • Store in small containers.
  • Leave space in the refrigerator for cool air to move around the food.
  • Remove the stuffing from cold meats or poultry before refrigerating.
  • When reheating bring gravy, sauces, and soups to a boil and cook other leftovers to 165° F.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Caregivers Handbook

This handy guide provides resources, checklists and worksheets
 - all in one place.