Safe Handling Tips

Safe Handling Tips

Producing safe food for our consumers is important to us. By the time our meats reach your grocery store we have taken many actions to assure safety.

However, it is essential that food preparers take steps to maintain safety from the grocery store all the way to the table. Practicing safe-handling methods in the home can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and keep your family healthy.

In every step of food preparation, follow these four steps to keep food safe:

  • Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate — Don’t cross-contaminate.
  • Cook — Cook to the right temperature.
  • Chill — Refrigerate promptly.

Below are some more basics of food safety in the home kitchen.


  • Purchase refrigerated or frozen items after selecting your non-perishables.
  • Make sure your grocery store is storing meat products at the right temperatures and not unplugging at night. Meat products should feel cold to the touch. Do not purchase products that feel warm, as this indicates that the product has not been stored at the proper temperature.
  • Place products in a plastic bag to prevent juices from leaking onto other raw products in your shopping cart.

Tip: If plastic bags are not available at your grocery’s meat counter, pick up a few extra bags in the produce section or consider bringing your own from home.

  • Never choose meat in packaging that is torn.
  • Do not buy food past expiration dates.
  • Refrigerate or freeze fresh meat products as soon after purchasing as possible. If it takes longer than thirty minutes to get the products home, keep them cold in a portable ice chest or cooler.


  • Do not defrost frozen meat at room temperature. Keeping the products cold during defrosting is the key to preventing bacteria from growing.
  • To defrost meat products in cold water, do not remove original packaging. Be sure the package is airtight or put it into a leak-proof bag before submerging the product completely in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes so that it continues to defrost. Note: Foods defrosted in the microwave or by the cold-water method should be cooked before re-freezing because they may have been held at temperatures higher than 40 F.
  • Wash all utensils, cutting surfaces and counters with hot, soapy water after contact with meat. If possible, use a separate cutting board for fresh meat products.
  • Wash hands thoroughly in hot, soapy water before and after handling meat and other fresh foods.
  • Keep fresh meat and meat juices away from other foods, both in the refrigerator and during preparation.
  • Never place cooked foods on the same platter, board or tray that held fresh meats.


  • Store all cooked leftovers in a shallow covered container and refrigerate. Chilling quickly prevents bacteria from growing.
  • To speed up the chilling process, divide large quantities into smaller portions or spread food out in container.
  • Do not pack food tightly into the refrigerator or freezer as proper air flow helps to maintain the suggested temperatures for each compartment.
  • Re-wrap raw meat products tightly for freezer storage using freezer paper or plastic freezer bags.
  • When refrigerating meat products, place the package in the meat compartment or in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
  • Follow the "when in doubt, throw it out" principle when evaluating whether a leftover product is safe to eat. Generally, meat and leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator safely for several days and frozen for up several months.