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When to Stay Home

Do not come to work if you've been sick with vomiting or diarrhea and until you've been free of these symptoms for 24 hours.

Stay home if you have jaundice (yellowed eyes and skin), or if you've been diagnosed with E. coli 0157:H7, hepatitis A, norovirus or salmonella. All of these illnesses are extremely easy to spread through food, and you could infect customers.

If you are sick with a cough or cold, you can be at work but you should not be near exposed food, clean equipment, dishes, linens or utensils.

Do not touch clean dishes or food with your hands if you have a fever.

If members of your household are sick with diarrhea or vomiting, do not touch clean dishes or food with your hands.

Always tell your manager if you are sick in any way, so he can help you determine what jobs are appropriate for you that day. Safe jobs might be taking out the trash, mopping, sweeping, cleaning restrooms or busing tables.

Guidelines on when to stay home from work or stay away from food at work.

Clean Hands

Hand Sanitizer




Know when and how to wash your hands on the job

On the Job

Do not eat, drink or use tobacco near food, dishes, linens, clean equipment or utensils. This could cross-contaminate food.

Jewelry can carry pathogens and fall into food so be sure to take it off before work.

Pull back and cover your hair so it doesn't fall into food and you don't have to adjust it while working. Cover beards and body hair.

Cover street clothes with a clean apron or chef's jacket.

Keep your coat, purse and personal items away from food, dishes, linens and clean equipment.

Leaving personal belongings in food prep and serving areas could cross-contaminate food. Managers should designate a safe space for workers to leave their belongings.

Customer Calls

If a customer calls your restaurant and says he got sick with diarrhea or vomiting after eating there, get the top manager on duty so she can take the customer's name and contact information. The manager should then contact the health department.

Health Departments


When food deliveries arrive at your establishment, be sure that nothing is open, leaking, rusted or bulging. Reject anything in damaged containers.

Use a thermometer to check that cold foods are the proper temperature (45 degrees or less for milk and eggs, 41 degrees or less for everything else) and immediately store all cold foods at 41 degrees or cooler.

Frozen foods must arrive frozen.

Hot foods should be 140 degrees or hotter and kept at least that warm. Place the thermometer between two packages of food to get a reading.

Do not stack boxes of delivered food on top of each other. Unseen leaks could cross-contaminate the food. Never reuse those boxes, because they could contaminate the new food you put in them.

Store food only in containers intended for food, not in garbage bags, galvanized garbage cans or containers that held chemicals, including soap. Chemicals could seep into the food from these containers and sicken customers.

Put raw meat, poultry and fish on lower refrigerator shelves so they don't drip onto other foods.

Store foods with higher cooking temperatures such as meat or chicken below foods with lower cooking temperatures like fish.


Check the refrigerator with an appliance thermometer to make sure it is 41 degrees or colder.

When keeping food on ice, pack the ice around the container as high as the food inside and check that the food itself is 41 degrees or colder.

Freezers should be zero degrees or colder.

Hazardous Foods

Cook Food to the Proper Temperatures

Insert cooking thermometers into the middle of foods to check that they reach safe cooking temperatures. Clean cooking thermometers between each food you check.

Learn how to use and clean different types of food thermometers and check often to make sure your thermometer reads accurately.

Food cooked or reheated in a microwave should reach 165 degrees. Be sure to test the food's temperature in several spots, because microwaves don't cook food evenly.

Do not reheat food with buffet or soup warmers. They are only designed to keep food at a certain temperature, not safely increase temperature.

Keep lids on food to keep it warm and stir it often to distribute heat.

Never mix cold and hot foods.

The safest way to thaw frozen food is to put it in the refrigerator until it's thawed. Make sure thawing food (especially meat, poultry and fish) is on low shelves where it won't leak onto other food.

Another way to thaw frozen food is to submerge it in running water that is 70 degrees or colder until the food thaws.

Cool cooked foods by surrounding containers with ice up to the level of the food.

To keep bacteria from growing, the food must reach 70 degrees within two hours and 41 degrees within six hours of having been at 140 degrees (the recommended temperature for food in a hot buffet dish).

You can also divide food into shallow pans and place them uncovered on the top shelf of a refrigerator where nothing can drip on them.

Once the food reaches 41 degrees, cover the pans.

Do not reuse ice that was used to cool food or equipment. Putting this ice in food or drinks could make customers sick.

Additional temperature information can be found in the FDA Food Code article 3-401.13 and FSIS fact sheets

Prep & Serving

Always wash your hands after handling raw meat, poultry, fish and eggs.

Clean the surface where you prepared these foods with soap and water to remove food particles, then sanitize it with a chemical cleaning spray to kill germs. Both steps are essential for safety.

Use clean dish rags to clean areas where you prepared these foods and don’t reuse the rags.

Prepare raw meat, poultry and fish in a separate area and designate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and fish only.

To avoid cross-contamination, managers should color-code cutting boards for these foods and for ready-to-eat foods that will be served without cooking.

Tell your manager if cutting boards are getting cut up, scratched or stained from use because that is when they should be replaced. Pathogens could live in cracks in the boards and contaminate food.

Make salads and sandwiches with cold ingredients when possible. Cool salads and sandwiches made with room-temperature ingredients to 41 degrees or colder within four hours to keep them safe.

Always serve customers second portions or refills in clean, unused dishes. Never re-serve unpackaged foods like bread sticks or chips. They are not safe for the next customer or you to eat and should be thrown out.

Keep the food prep area free of any objects that could fall into it, such as staples or push pins from bulletin boards or broken glass.

Always look closely at the food you are preparing or serving to be sure nothing has fallen into it.


Use Chemicals Safely

Make sure food is adequately stored or covered when you clean the kitchen to prevent soaps, chemicals and dirt from getting into the food.

To keep germ-spreading cockroaches, mice and other vermin out of the restaurant, put lids on garbage cans, throw out used boxes, cover and store food quickly and clean up spills immediately.

If you have vermin in your restaurant, do not spray pesticides yourself to get rid of them. Contract a professional exterminator to get rid of vermin when all of the food, dishes and utensils are put away and covered.

All chemicals including soaps and sanitizers should be stored away from food or below any counters, shelves or other areas where food might be stored or prepared. Chemicals stored too close to or above food or dishes could leak and make people sick.

Learn the right methods to clean and sanitize dishes

Cleaning Cloths

Use separate cleaning cloths for separate uses.

Managers can avoid cross-contamination by color-coding cleaning cloths for food preparation, service, bar operations and toilet sanitation.

Wash at work

If reusing cleaning cloths, check the concentration of sanitizer in cleaning cloth containers every four hours, or when the water starts to look cloudy or dirty.

Food particles in dirty water can absorb the sanitizing chemicals, so after a while the solution may not kill germs. Change the solution in the containers when it is no longer at the proper parts per million, or every four hours.

To check the concentration, dip a test strip into the solution, remove it and check the color against the color chart on the strip container.

The recommended parts per million for chlorine is 50 to 100 ppm; for iodine 12.5 to 25 ppm and for quaternary ammonium chlorides (sometimes called quats), 200 ppm.


News21 is a national initiative led by 12 of America’s leading research universities with the support of two major foundations – the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – that emphasizes innovative, hands-on journalism study and practice.

In summer 2011, fellows from five universities worked out of newsrooms at Arizona State's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism to report on the safety of America's food supply.

About This App

Research and reporting:

Rachel Albin

Project Management:

Joanne Ingram

Web Development:

Mark Ng


Kyle Bruggeman


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention food safety information page
  • Clemson University Cooperative Extension
  • FDA Food Code 2009
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service, "Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics"
  • FSIS press release, "USDA Revises Recommended Cooking Temperature for All Whole Cuts of Meat, Including Pork, to 145 °F"
  • Meat and Poultry Hotline, 888-674-6854
  • Minnesota Administrative Rules, Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes
  • Minnesota Food Code
  • “Safe Food is Good Business: Food Safety in Restaurants, Cafes, School Kitchens, and other Food and Beverage Establishments”
  • Food Safety Basics: Preventing Foodborne Illness
  • Martin Pemberton, Certified ServSafe Instructor, Hospitality Careers Training Center
  • Dr. Robert W. Powitz, Forensic Sanitarian in private practice, R.W. Powitz & Assoc.
  • Washington State Food & Beverage Worker’s Manual, “Food Safety is Everybody’s Business: Your Guide to Preventing Foodborne Illness”
  • Joseph M. Graham, REHS, Division of Environmental Health Food Safety Program
  • Handling Food

    Hello World