How can I prevent foodborne illnesses?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
To avoid foodborne illnesses, the easiest thing to do is to practice good food hygiene at home. Doing so will help to remove some of the potentially harmful things that might be on your food. Next, you can check out any food recalls and even sign up for alerts when recalls happen at so that you know when food you bought might be contaminated.

Another step is to buy locally. Farmers markets are good places to buy safe foods for two reasons. First, the producers are often subject to both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and specific market rules about food safety. Second, you can always ask how something is made. You’re often talking to the person who baked your bread and he or she can answer questions about how it was made.

Washing vegetables is one thing, but when food comes prepackaged, one might assume that it’s safe and contains no bacteria. The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) went a long way to improving the FDA’s ability to keep food producers clean and responsible, but more needs to be done. If you’re concerned about food safety, talk to members of your community and local government about steps you can take to keep food safe for you and your family.

This content originally appeared on
Melissa Joy Dobbins
Nutrition & Dietetics

The best thing to do is wash your hands with warm, soapy water. Nearly half of all foodborne illnesses could be eliminated if people would wash their hands more often when preparing food.

Another tip is to follow the 2-hour rule. Don't let perishable foods sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees then limit it to just one hour.

Also, make sure to use a food thermometer when cooking meats. They are inexpensive and indispensible when it comes to food safety. You can find a handy list of proper temperatures for various meats as well as other food safety tips at 

Anyone can develop a foodborne or food-related illness, but older adults, pregnant women, newborns and people with certain conditions are at greater risk, and should be careful about the foods they eat. Here are ways to prevent food-related illness:
  • Prepare and store food properly.
  • Use a thermometer to make sure cooked foods reach the correct temperature.
  • Avoid eating foods more prone to carry harmful bacteria.
  • Wash your hands often.
Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine
There is much that you can do to reduce your risk of suffering a food borne illness. Foremost is to cook meat, poultry, and eggs thoroughly. Using a thermometer to measure the internal temperature of meat is a good way to ensure that it has been cooked sufficiently to kill the bacteria. For example, ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160oF, poultry should reach a temperature of 185 oF, and eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm.
You can also avoid contaminating foods by washing hands, utensils, and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry and before they touch another food. In addition, always put cooked meat on a clean platter, rather than back on one that held the raw meat. We recommend washing fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water. Use a soft bristle brush with a little a mild soap. For greens, we recommend soaking them in cold water as many times as needed to get them clean. Be sure to always wash the knife and cutting board after each use, and avoid leaving cut produce at room temperature for many hours.
Encyclopedia of Healing Foods

More About this Book

Encyclopedia of Healing Foods

From the bestselling authors of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, the most comprehensive and practical guide available to the nutritional benefits and medicinal properties of virtually everything...

Depending on your packed lunch food safety habits, you could be setting yourself up for foodborne illness. 

Using a clean, insulated lunch box along with frozen ice packs are your best bet to help keep your edibles at a safe temperature until lunchtime.

To lower your risk for food poisoning, these tips will help you pack a safe lunch:

  • Use an insulated, soft-side lunch bag or box, which are best for keeping food cold, according to the USDA.
  • Always use ice packs. Perishable foods such as yogurt, meats, and cut up fruits and vegetables, should remain chilled at 40 degrees F or below to slow down the rate that pathogens will multiply to dangerous levels. Ideally, at least two ice sources should be used with perishable foods, with one ice pack on the bottom of the items and another one on top.
  • Store your lunch in a refrigerator. If available, you should store your packed lunch in the refrigerator with the bag open. This will allow the chilly air to come in contact with the food to keep it cold until you are ready to eat it.
  • Forget about bringing home leftovers. Perishables that are left out at room temperature for more than two hours (likely the time it takes to not only eat the lunch but transport it home), should be tossed as they are unsafe to consume.
  • Ditch the sandwich bags. If you use plastic sandwich baggies, they should get tossed after each use to prevent cross contamination with another future food item.
  • Plastic containers, as well as the inside and outside of the lunch bag, should also be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water and rinsed clean in between uses.
Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics

Food poisoning is often a preventable illness if you are focused on cooking temps, storing methods, serving times and preparation safety. Make sure you wash your hands with warm soapy water, keep raw foods separate from cooked, know your cook times and use a thermometer and refrigerate right away.

Continue Learning about Prevention Of Food Poisoning

How to Avoid Getting E. coli From These Common Foods
How to Avoid Getting E. coli From These Common Foods
Getting food poisoning is obviously not fun—and often it’s difficult to figure out what made you sick. But there are ways that you can keep yourself s...
Read More
How can I prevent food poisoning from meat?
St. David’s HealthCareSt. David’s HealthCare
To prevent food poisoning from meat, follow these tips: When shopping, select meat towards the e...
More Answers
Is Your Kitchen Making You Sick? How to Prevent Food Poisoning
Is Your Kitchen Making You Sick? How to Prevent Food PoisoningIs Your Kitchen Making You Sick? How to Prevent Food PoisoningIs Your Kitchen Making You Sick? How to Prevent Food PoisoningIs Your Kitchen Making You Sick? How to Prevent Food Poisoning
Avoid a cooking disaster, or a trip to the ER, with these food-safety tips.
Start Slideshow
What Are Supermarket-Shopping Suggestions for Avoiding Bacteria?
What Are Supermarket-Shopping Suggestions for Avoiding Bacteria?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.