University of Florida

Food Safety: Tips for the Household

Every year one out of six Americans becomes sick with a foodborne illness. While about 15% percent of these illnesses happen at home, the household is still the second most common place where these illnesses take place.

Learn about the three most common foodborne sickness–causing agents and ways you can prevent them from spreading in your home.

Household Risks


This bacteria derives from raw and undercooked poultry and meat, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water, and salad vegetables.

Many times cross-contamination within the kitchen spreads Campylobacter, which causes diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and fever for two to 10 days.  

E. coli

E. coli is primarily found in undercooked ground beef, raw milk and juice, soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, and raw fruits and vegetables.

While E. coli is actually a bacteria that lives within intestines, the worst kinds can cause horrible cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting as well as hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can be fatal, especially among children. The sickness usually lasts from five to 10 days.


Has anyone told you not to eat the raw cookie dough or cake batter? That’s probably because of Salmonella, which is often found in eggs, egg-based products, and poultry. Fruits, vegetables, chocolate, and nuts can contain this bacteria as well.

These foods can become tainted with Salmonella when they come into contact with fecal matter, when they undergo unsanitary cooking procedures, or through cross-contamination. This bacteria can be deadly and cause diarrhea, dehydration, fever, cramps, vomiting, which lasts for four to seven days.

    Reducing the Risks

    Follow these quick tips to reduce the risks of getting a foodborne illness.

  • Store foods properly—cooked foods need to be stored in a freezer or refrigerator.
  • Use leftovers within three to five days.
  • Thaw foods by putting them in the refrigerator, placing them under running cold water in the sink, or using a microwave.
  • Cook foods for the adequate time and to the correct temperatures. Use the safe minimum cooking temperatures chart found in the Food Safety within the Household publication.
  • Because cross-contamination is a leading factor of spreading these bacteria, always clean kitchen surfaces (cutting boards, counter tops, sink) and your hands.
Adapted and excerpted from:

Bacteria and Viruses,” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (Accessed 09/2014).

L. Grasso, G. Baker, Renée Goodrich-Schneider, and K. Schneider, “Food Safety within the Household” (FSHN12-10), UF/IFAS Food Science and Human Nutrition Department (10/2012).

Salmonella, Courtesy of Ariena van Bruggen lab

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