Understanding Food Poisoning -- Prevention

How Can I Prevent Food Poisoning?

Here are some tips to prevent food poisoning:

  • Always wash hands before preparing any food; wash utensils with hot soapy water after using them to prepare any meat or fish.
  • Don't thaw frozen meat at room temperature. Let meat thaw gradually in a refrigerator, or thaw it quickly in a microwave oven and cook immediately.
  • Avoid uncooked marinated food and raw meat, fish, or eggs; cook all such food thoroughly.
  • Check expiration dates on all foods.
  • In restaurants, return any undercooked meat or egg products for further cooking. Ask for a new plate.
  • Don't eat any food that looks or smells spoiled or any food from bulging cans or cracked jars.
  • Set your refrigerator to 40 degrees or below; never eat any prepared foods that have been out of a refrigerator more than two hours.
  • Keep juices or drippings from raw meat, poultry, shellfish, or eggs from contaminating other foods.
  • Carefully select and prepare fish and shellfish to ensure quality and freshness.
  • Keep separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, and fish and another for produce.
  • Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or foods made from raw milk.
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
  • Drink only pasteurized juice or cider.
  • Be aware of proper home-canning procedures.
  • If you are ill with diarrhea or vomiting, do not prepare food for others.
  • Wash hands with soap after handling pets or cleaning up after animals.
  • Mother's milk is the safest food for young infants. Breastfeeding prevents many food-borne illnesses and other health problems.
  • Do not feed honey to infants less than 1 year of age.

Those at high risk, such as pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, infants, and the elderly should also:

  • Avoid soft cheeses.
  • Cook foods until they are steaming hot.
  • Take care with foods from deli counters.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on March 15, 2017



Kliegman, R. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th Edition. Saunders, 2011.

National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse: "Diarrhea."

Feldman, M. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 9th Edition, Saunders, 2010.

FamilyDoctor.org: "Fever in Infants and Children: Treatment."

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Safe Food Handling: Refrigeration and Food Safety."

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Safe Food Handling: Cutting Boards and Food Safety."

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