Food safety is crucial to maintaining or achieving optimal health. Foodborne illness can occur just as easily in the home as it can in a food establishment.  Below are some food safety tips for you:

  • Use caution when you buy food.
    When shopping, buy perishable foods last (such as meat, eggs, and milk). Because eggs, meat, seafood, and poultry are most likely to contain bacteria, do not allow their juices to drip on other food. Shop for groceries when you can take food home immediately so that it does not spoil in a hot car.
  • Store your food properly.
    Store eggs, raw meat, poultry and seafood on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator. Store foods in containers to prevent contaminating other foods or kitchen surfaces. Set your refrigerator at or below 41 degrees. Set your freezer at 0 degrees.
  • Use special precautions when preparing and cooking food.
    Wash your hands, clean and sanitize kitchen surfaces before, during, and after handling cooking and serving food. Wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating them. Thaw food on a plate either in the refrigerator or in a microwave – not on the counter. Cook food immediately after thawing. Use different dishes and utensils for raw foods and cooked foods. 

  • Cool and promptly store leftovers after food has been served.
    Because harmful bacteria grow at room temperature, keep hot food hot (135 degrees) and cold food cold (41 degrees or cooler). This is especially important during picnics and buffets. Do not leave perishable foods out for more than two hours. Promptly refrigerate leftovers in shallow, uncovered containers. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees. If you have any doubts, throw it out.


Cooking Temperatures

Cook food thoroughly — Meat and poultry cooked on the grill often brown quickly on the outside. Use a cooking thermometer that reads 0-220 degrees F to be sure food has reached a safe internal temperature.

NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking it later. Cook food completely to destroy harmful bacteria.

  • Keep hot foods hot – After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, at home or at a picnic, keep it hot until it’s served. Keep it hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could become overcooked.
  • Keep cold food cold – When having a picnic, don’t open the cooler lid any more than necessary. This lets cold air out and warm air in. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in another cooler or container. When handling raw meat, remove from the cooler only the amount that will fit on the grill. Use an insulated cooler filled one-third with ice or ice packs to keep the food at 41 degrees.
  • Wash your hands – Always wash hands after handling raw meat. If you cook in an area where water and soap are not available, you should use moist disinfectant towels.
  • Serving the food – Never put your cooked meat on the same platter that held the raw meat. Any bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate the safely cooked meat or other grilled foods. During hot weather, food should never sit out for more than ONE HOUR.
  • Storing leftovers – Once the food has been removed from the grill, it should be refrigerated within two hours. Discard food that has been sitting out more than two hours after it was removed from the grill. Avoid using picnic leftovers since the temperatures at the picnic are questionable.
  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator – never at room temperature. Do not reuse marinade unless it has been boiled.

If you have any questions or would like information about food safety, or food establishment inspections in Cerro Gordo County, contact the Environmental Health section of the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health at 641-421-9335.


Food Safety During and After a Power Outage


ServSafe Course

The Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health supports and promotes ServSafe Certification to our licensed establishments. The purpose of the one-day course is to educate restaurant owners, supervisors, managers, and employees about the dangers of foodborne illnesses and how to avoid them.

The course focuses on the food service leader’s role in measuring risks, setting policies, and training and supervising employees. Those who successfully complete the course and examination receive a certificate valid for 5 years.

Although the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health has taught ServSafe certification courses in the past, the department is now partnering with and promoting this service through the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Cerro Gordo County Office.

For more information on ServSafe or to register for a course, visit the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Cerro Gordo County Office website. 

If you have questions about upcoming ServSafe courses, please contact the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Cerro Gordo County Office at 641-423-0844.



Resources specific to this page:

Click Here! for our Food Safety Manual.




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Mason City, IA 50401
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