When You Shop

When you're out, grocery shop last.  Take food straight home to the refrigerator.  Never leave food in a hot car!

  • Don't buy anything you won't use before the use-by date.
  • Don't buy food in poor condition.  Make sure refrigerated food is cold to the touch.  Frozen food should be rock-solid.  Canned goods should be free of dents, cracks or bulging lids which can indicate a serious food poisoning threat.

Safe Microwaving

A great time saver, the microwave has one food safety disadvantage.  It sometimes leaves cold spots in food.  Bacteria can survive in these spots.  So....

  • Cover food with a lid or plastic wrap so steam can aid thorough cooking.  Vent wrap and make sure it doesn't touch the food.
  • Stir and rotate your food for even cooking.  No Turntable?  Rotate dish by hand once or twice during cooking.
  • Observe the standing time called for in a recipe or package directions.  During the standing time, food finishes cooking.
  • Use the oven temperature probe or a meat thermometer to check that food is done.  Insert it at several spots.

Kept it too long? - When in doubt, throw it out

Safe refrigerator and freezer storage time-limits are given for many common foods in the "Opened Food Reference Guide".  But what about something you totally forgot about and may have kept too long?

  • Danger - never taste food that looks or smells strange to see if you can still use it.  Just discard it.
  • Is it Moldy?  The mold you see is only the tip of the iceberg.  The poisons molds can form are found under the surface of the food.  So, while you can sometimes save hard cheese and salamis and firm fruits and vegetables by cutting the mold out -- remove a large area around it, most moldy food should be discarded.

Is It Food Poisoning?

If you or a family member develop nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or cramps, you could have food poisoning.  Unfortunately, it's not always easy to tell since, depending on the illness, symptoms can appear anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 weeks.  Most often, though, people get sick within 4 to 48 hours after eating bad food.  In more serious cases, food poisoning victims may have nervous system problems like paralysis, double vision or trouble swallowing or breathing.  If symptoms are severe or the victim is young, old, pregnant, or already ill, call a doctor or go to the hospital right away.

When To Report Foodborne Illness

You or your physician should report serious cases of foodborne illness to the local health department.  Report any food poisoning incidents if the food involved came from a restaurant or commercial outlet.  Give a detailed, but short account of the incident.  If the food is a commercial product, have it in hand so you can describe it.  If you're asked to keep the food refrigerated so officials can examine it later, follow directions carefully.

(Source: Michigan State University, Institution Cooperative Extension Service)