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NSF Celebrates National Food Safety Education Month With Helpful Tips

September marks National Food Safety Education Month. Learn more about how you can practice food safety and help protect against food poisoning.

Did you know that September marks National Food Safety Education Month? This annual spotlight helps remind us of how important food safety is in our daily lives, from reading and understanding food labels to protecting friends and family from foodborne illnesses when preparing and consuming food.

Each year one in six Americans gets sick from contaminated food or beverages, and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that each year one in six Americans gets sick from contaminated food or beverages, and 3,000 die from foodborne illness, it’s crucial to understand how to prevent this. At NSF, we play a vital role in food safety, providing the link between government agencies, food producers, retailers, and consumers.

Our experts offer these seven tips to help protect you and your loved ones from food poisoning and to prevent it from happening at home.

  1. Scrub up. Germs that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen.
    • Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
    • Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
    • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.
  2. Separate. Don’t cross-contaminate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, all of which can spread germs.
    • Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
    • When grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other foods.
    • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the refrigerator.
  3. Cook to the right temperature. Use an NSF-certified food thermometer to check that foods are cooked to their proper internal temperature.
  4. Refrigerate promptly. Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the danger zone between 40° F (4° C) and 140° F (60° C).
  5. Storage tips for leftovers:
    • Leftovers should be eaten or frozen within three to four days. After that, it’s time to throw them out.
    • Move to the fridge fast. Transfer food from the hot casserole dish to a shallow one to help it cool quickly. Move to the refrigerator within two hours. Leave partially uncovered to allow the steam to escape and the cool air in the fridge to get to the food.
    • Use an NSF-certified appliance thermometer in your refrigerator to keep its internal temperature at 40° F (4° C) or below.
    • Create individual portions of a meal if you are freezing it, so they are ready to heat up and eat.
  6. Reheating tips:
    • Reheat cooked leftovers to 165° F (74° C), as measured by your digital or stab food thermometer.
    • Sauces, soups, and gravies should be reheated by bringing them to a boil.
    • When microwaving leftovers, there can be cold spots in the food (where bacteria can survive). To avoid these cold spots, cover your food loosely, stir in the middle of your cooking time, and rotate for evenly cooked food.
  7. One and done. It’s easy and tempting, but don’t hold onto the food’s original container by washing it or reusing it multiple times. Throw it out, recycle it, and put leftovers in proper food storage containers. The best way to preserve the foods you love is to use NSF-certified storage containers. NSF experts test these containers to help ensure that they are easily cleanable. The lids are tight enough to keep air (and bacteria growth) out or let steam vent when food is hot. They are also made from food-safe materials. Look for the NSF mark on product packaging when you are shopping.

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