10 Commandments of Food Safety

There are certain food-safety rules that health experts and agencies, such as the USDA, repeat often. A variety of food experts (meet them below) and nearly 2,000 readers on Eatingwell.com revealed which commandments they follow. We found that even some of the experts are a little relaxed about the rules. 1. I use a “refrigerator thermometer” to keep my food stored at a safe temperature (below 40°F). Eatingwell.com readers: 37% agree. | Experts: 78% agree. “Knowing the temperature of your refrigerator is critical to keeping food safe. The warmer foods are stored, the more quickly bacteria can grow.” —Catherine Donnelly 2. I defrost food in the refrigerator, the microwave or in cold water, never on the counter. Eatingwell.com readers: 70% agree. | Experts: 56% agree. “Yes. When defrosting meat, poultry or seafood in the refrigerator, it is important to make sure it is on a tray and cannot drip juices onto foods below as it defrosts.” —Donna Rosenbaum 3. I always use separate cutting boards for raw meat/poultry/fish and produce/cooked foods. Eatingwell.com readers: 72% agree. | Experts: 56% agree. “No, but I will thoroughly clean and use the same cutting board for both raw and cooked products.” —Rich Vergili 4. I always cook meat to proper temperatures, using a calibrated instant-read thermometer to make sure. Eatingwell.com readers: 42% agree. | Experts: 33% agree. “I love my burgers rare and my lamb and steak medium-rare. I will be struck by lightning or chomped by a Great White before undercooked meats get me.” —Ming Tsai In some cases, the EatingWell Test Kitchen recommends cooking meats to temperatures that are lower than the USDA’s recommended safe minimums, but people at high risk for developing foodborne illness—pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems—should follow the guidelines (eatingwell.com/foodsafety) closely. 5. I avoid unpasteurized (“raw”) milk and cheeses made from unpasteurized milk that are aged less than 60 days. Eatingwell.com readers: 86% agree. | Experts: 71% agree. “Not worth the risk—especially for pregnant women.” —Doug Powell 6. I never eat “runny” eggs or foods, such as cookie dough, that contain raw eggs. Eatingwell.com readers: 47% agree. | Experts: 33% agree. Don’t be silly. I’m human.” —Marion Nestle Like Marion Nestle, many people consume undercooked eggs. Even the EatingWell Test Kitchen sometimes recommends cooking eggs to temperatures lower than those recommended by the USDA. Those at high risk should follow the guidelines and/or use pasteurized egg products when practical. 7. I always wash my hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after touching raw meat, poultry or eggs. Eatingwell.com readers: 81% agree. | Experts: 67% agree. “I must admit that at my home, I may not get through ‘Happy Birthday’ twice before working with some food items, but absolutely always after working with raw meats and poultry.” —Linda Kender 8. I always heat leftover foods to 165⁰F. Eatingwell.com readers: 50% agree. | Experts: 38% agree. “No. This is one of the most misunderstood recommendations. If you reheat a serving of prime rib to 165°F it would become like pot roast.” —Rich Vergili So long as leftovers have been properly cooked and cooled, you can reheat them to any temperature just before serving. 9. I never eat meat, poultry, eggs or sliced fresh fruits and vegetables that have been left out for more than 2 hours (1 hour in temperatures hotter than 90°F). Eatingwell.com readers: 64% agree. | Experts: 63% agree. “The rule in our house is ‘when in doubt, throw it out!’” —Donna Rosenbaum 10. Whenever there’s a food recall, I check products stored at home to make sure they are safe. Eatingwell.com readers: 82% agree. | Experts: 100% agree. “I just returned cookie dough to a retail outlet for a refund.” —Catherine Donnelly Meet the Expert Panel: Catherine W. Donnelly, Ph.D., is a professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Vermont and an expert on listeria. Scott Donnelly, Ph.D., is a microbiologist and independent food inspector based in Burlington, VT. Linda Kender is an associate professor in the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University. Bill Marler, J.D., is an attorney and food-safety advocate. Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., one of EatingWell’s nutrition advisors, is a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. Her most recent book is Pet Food Politics. Douglas Powell, Ph.D., is an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University and founder of the hilarious barfblog.com. Donna Rosenbaum is the executive director of Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.). Ming Tsai is chef-owner of the award-winning restaurant Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA, and the host and executive producer of the cooking show Simply Ming. Rich Vergili is professor of hospitality management at The Culinary Institute of America. He lectures on nutrition and food safety.