Tips for safe food handling

Child Caring Online - information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program

Safe food handling practices prevent food borne illnesses

Preparation and storage rules

  • Start with clean, wholesome food from reliable sources. Wash all raw fruits and vegetables before using.
  • Hold frozen food at 0º F or lower during delivery and storage.
  • Scrub and sanitize all cutting boards, knives and electric slicers immediately after contact with raw or cooked meats, fish or poultry.
  • Hold all potentially hazardous foods out of the danger zone, 40º F – 140º F. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Reach an internal temperature of 165º F to 170º F for foods to be held for serving. Maintain a minimum temperature of 140º F during the serving period.
  • Re-pan in shallow containers any cooked food to be held at refrigerated temperatures. Refrigerate immediately. The center of the food should reach 40º F within four hours. To hasten cooling, space pans in the cooler to allow for adequate air circulation.
  • Never serve questionable food. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Avoid cross-contamination of foods during preparation, storage and service.



  • Wash hands with soap and water. Hands must be washed when reporting to work, after handling raw poultry and meat, smoking, sneezing, using a handkerchief and after using the toilet
  • Keep all work surfaces clean and organized.
  • Keep the work area clean and all spills wiped up immediately.
  • Refrigerate promptly all unused foods.
  • Use clean equipment in preparing, cooking and serving food.
  • Avoid touching food as much as possible. Use the proper utensils.
  • Handle all utensils and serving equipment by handles and base to avoid touching areas that will later come in contact with the food.
  • Use a clean spoon to taste food.
  • Keep fingernails trimmed and clean. Scrub nails with a nail brush after a visit to the toilet and after handling raw meat, poultry and fish.
  • Keep hair clean and use a hair net or other restraint.
  • Reassign employees with infected cuts or burns. These employees should not prepare food or handle equipment that will come in contact with food.

Source: National Food Service Management Institute

Updated February 15, 2023 4:31pm