Frequently Asked Questions

At what temperature should I set my refrigerator and freezer?

Your refrigerator should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and your freezer should be zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

Where can I find updated information on canning and freezing fruits and vegetables?

The National Center for Home Food Preservation provides guides for canning and other methods of food preservation, such as freezing, curing or smoking, and pickling.

What temperature should different types of meats and poultry be cooked to?

Poultry (whole, pieces, or ground) should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Eggs and egg dishes should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Ground meats such as ground beef, pork, and lamb should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Pieces of meat such as steaks and roasts as well as fish fillets should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of a 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

How can I avoid foodborne illness and food poisoning?

You can reduce your risk of getting foodborne illness by practicing safe food handling. Some websites that contain information on the proper preparation and storage of specific foods are, or It is particularly important to store perishable foods such as meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables properly. Your refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Wash all fruits and vegetables with potable (safe) water before eating or using in a recipe. Cook meats to their proper minimum internal cooking temperature (see answer above for specific temperatures). When reheating leftovers make sure the food reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

To prevent cross-contamination avoid placing raw meat, poultry, or fish near fruits, vegetables and other ready-to-eat-foods.

Do not leave perishable in the temperature danger zone for more than two hours. The temperature danger zone is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Gateway to Government Food Safety website is an excellent consumer site providing information on the importance of a safe food supply and how to reduce risk of foodborne illness.

How long can I keep leftover food?

Leftover food can be a source of foodborne contamination if not handled and stored properly. A list of how long various foods can be kept is available here.

How long will food last in a power outage?

Typically, food in a full freezer should stay cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit or less) for two days. A half-full freezer should stay cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit or less) for one day. If the refrigerator temperature goes above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours or more, most foods will need to be thrown out with the exception of certain items like hard cheeses, oil-based dressings, bread, mustard, and butter. To keep foods as cold as long as possible, avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer doors. For more information on food and water safety during an extended power outage, click here.

Are there any special food safety concerns during pregnancy?

You should not eat raw meat, poultry, or seafood (especially raw oysters and clams). Make sure all the meat, poultry, and seafood you eat is cooked thoroughly. Do not eat deli meats or hot dogs unless they are thoroughly heated. You should also avoid raw or undercooked eggs and any foods that contain them, such as Caesar salads, mousse, custards, homemade ice cream, homemade mayonnaise, and key lime pie. You can buy pasteurized eggs for these recipes. Don't drink raw or unpasteurized milk, and do not eat foods made from raw or unpasteurized milk. Avoid soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, and Queso Blanco or Queso Fresco. For more information on pregnancy and food safety visit the Food and Drug Administration's Safe Food for Moms-To-Be.

Can I send perishable items in the mail?

You can send perishable items in the mail as long as you package them properly. Ensure that the package is labeled "KEEP REFRIGERATED" so that the recipient and shipper are aware that it is perishable. Pack with sufficient cold packs and if appropriate freeze items before shipping so they will remain cold as long as possible. Be sure the food is sealed in a plastic bag or airtight container. For more information on mail order safety visit the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection.