Food safety

Food safety

The following tips will help keep your food safe from harmful bacteria. For more information, visit

Keep things clean

  • Wash your hands well before and after handling food. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling pets.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before eating.
  • Wash utensils, dishes, cutting boards, counters and sinks with hot, soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or unwashed fresh produce.
  • Clean up spills in your refrigerator right away. Look at expiration dates on containers. Once a week throw away food that should no longer be eaten.

Keep things separated

  • Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from other items in your grocery cart and refrigerator.
  • Put uncooked meat, poultry and fish in sealed containers or plastic bags when storing them in the refrigerator.
  • Use one cutting board for raw meats and a different one for fruits and vegetables.
  • Place cooked meat, poultry and seafood on a clean plate. Do not reuse a plate that held the raw food.

Keep things chilled

  • Keep your refrigerator at 40 F or below and your freezer at zero F or below.
  • Refrigerate food quickly. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.
  • Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours of purchase. (Refrigerate within one hour if the temperature is more than 90 F.)
  • Refrigerate or freeze prepared foods and leftovers within two hours (within one hour if the temperature is more than 90 F).
  • Use shallow containers for quicker cooling.
  • Don't overpack the refrigerator; leave room for the cold air to circulate.
  • Never thaw foods on the counter. Thaw foods in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in a microwave.

Cook things well

  • Use a clean, quick-read food thermometer to determine the temperature of foods.
  • Cook foods until they have reached the proper temperature:
    • roast beef, steaks, pork chops or roast to at least 145 F
    • ground beef to at least 160 F
    • ground turkey, chicken breasts or whole poultry to at least 165 F
    • fish until it's opaque and flakes easily with a fork (145 F)
    • eggs until the yolks and whites are firm
    • egg dishes to 160 F
  • Reheat leftovers to 165 F.

Other tips to prevent food-related illness

Listeria is a kind of bacteria that can contaminate foods and cause an infection called listeriosis. This is a serious illness that can cause premature labor or death to a developing or newborn baby. To reduce your risk of listeriosis:

  • Make sure all milk and milk products are pasteurized. Do not eat unpasteurized soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses and Mexican-style cheeses.
  • Limit deli foods like prepared salads or cheeses.
  • Reheat hot dogs, lunch meats and deli meats until they are steaming hot.
  • Do not eat refrigerated pâté or meat spreads. (Canned or shelf-stable spreads are fine.)
  • Only eat refrigerated smoked seafood as an ingredient in a cooked dish, such as a casserole.
  • Reheat pre-cooked, take-home meals to 165 F.

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite. This infection comes from cat feces and raw meat. Learn more about how to avoid exposure to toxoplasmosis and how to have a healthy pregnancy.

Salmonella and E. coli 0157 bacteria can contaminate foods and cause serious illness. Don't eat raw sprouts while you are pregnant because they can be easily contaminated. In addition, follow the tips for safe food handling above.

  • The Minnesota Department of Health has an online guide about which fish to eat and how often.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also has an online guide to fish advisories. Go to and search "fish consumption."

Choosing fish wisely

Fish is a good source of protein, contains fatty acids, and is low in saturated fat. However, any fish (store-bought or fresh-caught) could contain contaminants such as mercury or PCBs that can harm a developing baby.

It's best to vary the kind of fish you eat and limit the amount of fish you eat to one to two meals a week.

The amount of fish in a meal depends on your body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, you could safely eat one-half pound (8 ounces) of fish (precooked weight).

To adjust the amount of fish, subtract or add one ounce of fish for every 20 pounds of body weight:

  • If you weigh 130 pounds, eat 7 ounces of fish.
  • If you weigh 150 pounds, eat 8 ounces of fish.
  • If you weigh 170 pounds, eat 9 ounces of fish.

Tips to help you choose fish

  • Avoid king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish and shark. These are large, salt-water fish most likely to have high levels of mercury.
  • Avoid eating these locally caught fish: walleye larger than 20 inches, northern pike larger than 30 inches, and all muskellunge (muskies).
  • Limit eating canned albacore tuna to one 6-ounce meal a month. Light tuna is a smaller fish and less likely to have high levels of mercury.
  • Eat up to two meals a week of farm-raised or wild salmon from the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean, not from the Great Lakes.
  • Avoid raw fish, sushi and sashimi because it could contain harmful bacteria.

Sugar substitutes

Sucralose (Splenda®) and aspartame (NutraSweet® or Equal®) are considered safe to use in pregnancy.

Source: Allina Health Patient Education, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, eighth edition, ob-ah-90026
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/06/2021