Hesperian Health Guides

Safe Food Preparation

In this chapter:

Preparing food for the family is the center of home life. But food itself, and the surfaces on which it is prepared, can carry many kinds of germs. Eating food or drinks contaminated with germs can cause food poisoning, stomach pain, cramps, diarrhea, swollen belly, parasites, fever, hepatitis, typhoid, weakness and dehydration, constipation, and other problems.

Reduce food-borne illness at home

Spoiled food — Throw away food that smells bad, or has mold on it, or strange textures. Do not eat food from cans that are dented or bulging because the food inside is spoiled by germs that are already inside the can.

Food handling — Wash hands before and after preparing food.

Food surfaces — Clean dishes, pots, and surfaces where food is prepared with hot water and soap before and after preparing food and eating. To remove germs from cloths used to clean kitchen surfaces, wash the cloths with soap and hang them in the sun to dry, or iron them.

2 women wash dishes.
Because germs are invisible, they can cause illness even in kitchens that look clean.

Fruits and vegetables — Wash or peel all fruits and vegetables before eating.

Cooking — Heat kills germs. To make sure food is safe, make sure it is well-cooked, and eat it soon after it is prepared. Cook meats until they are no longer bloody or red in color. Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm. Cook fish until it flakes easily with a fork.

Meat handling and storage — Because germs from raw meat, chicken, and seafood spread easily to other foods, store meat separately or wrap it carefully so juice does not drip onto other foods. Use a separate cutting board and knife when preparing meat, and clean cooking tools well with hot water and soap before cutting other foods. It is not safe to place cooked food on a plate or surface that held raw meat.

Safe food storage — Store leftover food safely in secure containers in a cool and dry place, and dispose of trash right away. (See ways to safely store food and crops.)

This page was updated:05 Jan 2024