safe food handling guide

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Learn how to keep food safe with this brief guide. Many links to extra information are included!


  • Safe Food Handling


  • Updated: January 27, 2011

    Table of Contents

    Food Contamination



    Assessment (link-out)

  • Introduction

    The resources in this guide will provide basic knowledge

    relating to keeping food safe as it moves from the

    Capital Area Food Bank to your organization - and then

    on to clients.

    Each year, improper food handling

    contributes to

    76 estimated food-borne illness outbreaks?

    325,000 estimated hospitalizations?

    5,000 estimated deaths

  • Review this guide to discover how safe food handling can

    reduce health risks for your agency and your clients.

    Please note that safe food handling training is required of

    all partner agencies of the Capital Area Food Bank.

    Reviewing this brochure and filling out the online

    assessment will fulfill requirements for programs that do

    NOT prepare food on-site. Programs that prepare food

    will need full certification. See this website for reduced-

    rate certification options.

  • Food Contamination

    How Does Food Contamination Occur?

    The four main causes of food contamination are: 1. Not washing hands 2. Cross-contamination 3. Improper storage and cooking temperatures 4. Contamination by animal waste

    Contaminants can be divided into three categories: physical, chemical and biological.

    Physical Chemical Biological

    wood cleaning chemicals

    micro organisms

    metal maintenance chemicals


    glass pest control chemicals


    paint chips birds


  • How Can We Avoid Food Contamination?

    Wash! Rinse! Sanitize!

    This will make such everything is properly cleaned. This

    includes the work space and all the materials used.

    Wash Hands with Soap.

    Wash hands with hot soap and water for at least 30


  • Know the Proper Temperature Controls.

    The proper temperature for refrigerated foods is

    between 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper

    temperature for freezer items is 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The Temperature Danger Zone is between 41 - 140

    degrees Fahrenheit. Click here for information on how to

    calibrate a thermometer and how/when to use a


  • Know the critical times for perishable foods.

    Perishable foods should not be left in the Temperature

    Danger Zone for more than four hours! Click here for a

    list of safe food handling temperatures for common


    Remember this acronym: "FAT TOM"

    Food - bacteria can grow in all foods, especially those that are high in protein

    Acidity - bacteria can grow in neutral or acidic areas Time - perishable foods should not be left out for

    longer than 4 hours Temperature - Temperature Danger Zone: 41 - 140

    degrees Fahrenheit Oxygen - bacteria can grow with or without oxygen Moisture - bacteria likes to grow in foods with a lot

    of moisture

    Reflection Questions

    1. What is considered a physical contaminant? 2. What is the temperature danger zone? 3. What is the longest amount of time that perishable

    foods can be left out in the Temperature Danger Zone?

  • Storage

    What do I do when I get the food? When you receive any food, be sure to check all the boxes, cans, packaging and dates. This will ensure that the food in your pantry is safe and satisfying for all of your consumers.

    Proper Storage:

    Items must be stored at least 6 inches off the ground.

    Food should be organized on shelves in proper categories.

    Food should be stored in proper food temperatures.

  • Food should not be stored with any cleaning products or chemicals.

    Evaluating Food:

    Packaging Throw out if...

    Boxes with inner bags

    inner bag is open in any way

    Boxes without inner bags

    open in any way

    Bags or sacks rips, tears punctures or holes

    Pouches inflation, incomplete or incorrectly

    formed seals

    Cans missing label, dented or pinched top and bottom, dirt under top

    *Discard products with open packaging or products that

    show signs of molding or rodents

    What Do All of the Dates Mean?

    There is a lot of confusion about the dates on food packaging. Unless a date is accompanied by the words

    "Expires by" or "Expiration date", then the date is NOT an

  • expiration date. See below for the most commonly used phrases for food product dating.


    "Sell By" Date - Last day the product is recommended for display on a supermarket shelf. This product is still good to eat past this date! "Best if Used By" Date - indicates how long the product will maintain best quality or flavor. This food is still safe to eat after this date, although it may have a slight taste or texture change.

  • "Coded" Date - indicates a date on which the product was packaged. This date enables manufacturers to rotate their stock as well as locate their products in the event of a recall. "Use By" or "Expiration" Date - Indicates the last date suggested for use of the product in terms of quality or freshness. Once a product exceeds this date, it is said to have "exceeded its shelf life." This type of coding is easy to read and usually gives the date (day, month, and year) after which the product should not be used. It should be noted that rarely when a food product exceeds its shelf life does it become a potential food safety hazard. The product usually degrades in quality, affecting color, flavor, aroma, texture, etc. The few exceptions of products which may develop potential food safety hazards when they exceed their shelf life are produce, lunch meats, fresh prepared salads (like potato salad), which should always be destroyed after they exceed their shelf life.

  • Shelf Life Reference Guide

    Product Estimated shelf life past the sell-by date

    Yogurt 1-3 weeks

    Baby Food or Formula Do not use beyond code

    Bread/Bakery Products 3-10 days

    Canned Goods 1-2 years

    Aseptic Containers 1-2 years

    Jars/Bottles 6 months-a year

    Cereal 3 months

    Crackers 3 months

    Pasta 1 year

    Dried Beans 1-2 years

    Freezer Products 3 months - 1 year

    Prepared Salads/Dips Do not use beyond code

    Refrigerated Juices/Teas 1-4 weeks

    Rice 1 year

    Not Frozen Poultry 1-2 days

    Not Frozen Beef, Veal, Pork & Lamb

    3-5 days

    Not Frozen Ground Meat or Poultry

    1-2 days

    Not Frozen Variety Meat 1-2 days

  • Not Frozen Ham 5-7 days

    Not Frozen Sausage 1-2 days

    Eggs 3-5 weeks

    Cooked Poultry 3-4 days

    Cooked Sausage 3-4 days

    Sausage Hard/Dry 6 weeks

    Corned Beef 5-7 days

    Vacuum Packed Dinners 2 weeks

    Frozen Bacon 2 weeks

    Frozen Hot Dogs 2 weeks

    Luncheon Meat 2 weeks

    Cooked Ham 7 days

    Canned Meat 2-5 years

    Canned Ham 2 years

    For even more specific information about sell-by dates for even more specific foods, please view the Food

    Marketing Institutes Food Keeper Brochure.

  • Follow FIFO - First In First Out - This acronym indicates that the first products that are placed on your shelf are the first ones out of your facility. Following this guideline ensures that consumers are getting the freshest and safest foods possible.

    Reference Questions

    1. Can you eat something past the "Sell By" Date? 2. How far off the ground should the food be stored?

  • Cleaning

    Developing A Regular Cleaning Schedule

    A regular cleaning schedule will insure that the storage and preparation area is clean and safe for food handling.

    Wash WASH dishes, utensils, cookware, cutting boards, appliances and cooking surfaces with HOT, SOAPY

    WATER to remove visible soil.

    Rinse Thoroughly RINSE OFF soap and film.

  • Sanitize REGULAR CHLORINE BLEACH diluted into water is an

    easy-to-use germ killer. Below is a short video on how to prepare a sanitizing solution.

    Recipes for sanitizing:

    1. Nonporous Surfaces* - Use 1 tablespoon liquid bleach per gallon of water. Leave wet for 2 minutes. Air dry.

    2. Porous Surfaces** - Use 3 tablespoons liquid bleach per gallon of water. Leave wet for 2 minutes. Rise and air dry.

    *Nonporous Surfaces: are areas that are smooth, unpainted solid surface that limit penetration of liquid. This includes glass, plastic or metal surfaces. **Porous Surfaces: are areas that can admit the passage of gas or liquid through pores or interstices. This includes wood surfaces.

    Reference Questions

    1. What is the best thing to do to ensure that you will have a safe area for food handling?

  • Helpful Sites

    Below are several resources that provide additional

    information regarding safe food handling.

    The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has a wealth of resources relating to safe food handling.

    The United States Food and Drug Administration provides updated information regarding product recalls and other food safety topics.

    The Mayo Clinic has a wealth of resources, particularly relating to proper hand-washing techniques.

    Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington provides reduced-rate safe food handling certification to Capital Area Food Bank partner agencies.

    The Food Marketing Institute has published a compreh


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