White Mountain Community Health - Affordable Health Care, Conway NH
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8:30am to 4:00pm
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May 9, 2017

Food safety - Staying out of the "Danger Zone"

Ann Hamilton of the UNH Cooperative Extension recently presented a Food Safety course here at the health center. We thought it would be worthwhile to share with you what we learned, to help you be more aware of food safety. 

Approximately 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses occur annually, with 1 in 6 Americans becoming ill each year. These illnesses cause an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

According to 2011 estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common foodborne illnesses are caused by norovirus and bacteria (such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter). Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea are common symptoms in many foodborne diseases. Many of our patients – including children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems – are at greatest risk of serious consequences from most foodborne illnesses.

Foodborne illness can be prevented by:

  • Wash hands and surfaces often.


  • Don’t cross-contaminate foods.
  • Always put away frozen and perishable foods first.
  • Organize your refrigerator so that ready to eat foods are on the top shelf, followed by meat.
  • Eggs should always be stored in their original container on the top shelf and not on the door. This prevents eggs from being exposed to frequent temperature changes.
  • Cut fresh foods before preparing meat or use a separate cutting board.


  • Cook food to proper temperatures.
  • Raw meat and poultry should always be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature:
  • Cook beef, pork, veal, and lamb roasts, steaks, and chops to at least 145° F.
  • Cook ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork to at least 160° F.
  • Cook all poultry to minimal safe internal temperature of 165° F.
  • Keep hot food hot — at or above 140 °F. Place cooked food in chafing dishes, preheated steam tables, warming trays, and/or slow cookers.
  • Foods should be reheated thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 °F or until hot and steaming.
  • Keep cold food cold — at or below 40 °F. Place food in containers on ice.
  • When transferring food, especially during warmer seasons, keep perishables cold by using a clean cooler with ice packs.


  • Refrigerate food promptly. Do not leave food unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.
  • Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. This range of temperatures is often called the “Danger Zone.”
  • Put leftovers in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerate them at 40 °F or below within two hours.
  • If the temperature is above 90 °F, food should not be left out more than 1 hour. This is especially important to remember at barbeques on hot days!

We cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring that your food stays at the proper temperature. You can purchase a small thermometer to place in your refrigerator and/or freezer at a home improvement store like Walmart or Lowes. We recommended that you periodically check that the temperature of your refrigerator is between 36◦ - 40◦F and your freezer is between -10◦ - O◦F.

To keep track of and better understand food and beverage storage, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has created a free USDA FoodKeeper app, available for Android and Apple devices. It will help you to maximize the freshness and quality of items, allowing you to keep items fresh longer, and will be a neat party trick to share your food safety knowledge with friends!