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Environmental Health - Information - Food Safety


Food safety tips

  • When making chicken salad, allow the chicken to cool in the refrigerator before mixing it with mayonnaise and other items.
  • Never thaw potentially hazardous foods at room temperature. Thaw under running water, thaw in the refrigerator prior to cooking, or as part of the cooking process. (Freezer to oven)
  • To avoid cross contamination, never prepare raw meats on the same surface as cooked or ready to serve foods.
  • Traditionally, the rule of thumb for foods that will support microbial growth, has been that there be no more than 4 hours in the danger zone 40- 140 degrees F.
  • In order to cool foods safely, a two part cooling standard should be applied. First, the temperature must be dropped from 140-70 degrees F in two hours. The temperature must be lowered through this range quickly because foodborne pathogens multiply most rapidly between these temperatures. Once that temperature range has been reached, an additional four hours can be taken to get the product down to 41 degrees F.

United States Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline is a toll-free telephone service and webpage that helps consumers reduce the risk of foodborne illness, specifically by answering their questions about safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry and egg products. Callers may speak with a food safety specialist in English or Spanish from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, weekdays. Recorded messages in English or Spanish, are available at all times. Thanksgiving Day hours: Food safety specialists will be available to answer your calls from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Eastern time.

The Hotline may be reached by calling: 1-888-674-6854

E-mail: You may also send questions via e-mail to: mphotline.fsis@usda.gov
Please be sure to include your complete e-mail address and a daytime phone number in the body of the message, in case there are questions about your request.

Regular mail: The Hotline has recently relocated to the George Washington Carver Center in Beltsville, MD. The new mailing address is:

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Mail Drop 5269
Beltsville, MD 20705-5269
Phone: 301-504-6258

Seasonal features from USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline: Learn how to handle and store your holiday meals safely this year with helpful tips from the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline. Each of the four Turkey Basics articles listed below are also available in PDF format.

Poultry Preparation Fact Sheets

For more information on the safe handling of meat, poultry and egg products, go to the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline webpage.

Page last updated: 07/9/13