Understanding Food Poisoning -- Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on May 10, 2021

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



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. "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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