Avoiding 10 Most Common Food Safety Mistakes

Food safety mistakes can easily be avoided! Don’t be one of the 48 million Americans sickened by food poisoning each year. Avoid these 10 common yet dangerous food safety mistakes. Handling foods safely is much more than throwing away expired milk or washing your fruits and vegetables. While these actions are important, there are several more common food safety mistakes that can result in major consequences.

Food Safety Mistake number one: Tasting food to see if it’s still good
Never taste your food to check if it has spoiled. You can’t taste, see or even smell the bacteria that causes food poisoning, and tasting just a tiny bit of contaminated food can cause serious illness. Throw away all expired food before harmful bacteria grows.

Mistake number two: Putting cooked or ready-to-eat foods back on a plate that held raw meat
Never let raw meat, poultry or seafood touch cooked meat or any ready-to-eat foods, as this can cause cross-contamination. Foodborne pathogens from the raw meat can easily spread to ready-to-eat foods and cause food poisoning. Always use separate plates, cutting boards and utensils to keep raw meats, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods.

Mistake number three: Thawing food on the counter
Never thaw food on the counter. Harmful foodborne pathogens multiply rapidly when foods are in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F. Instead, always thaw foods in the refrigerator, cold water or in the microwave.

Mistake number four: Washing meat or poultry. Washing and rinsing will not remove any bacteria from these products, but, in fact, will spread bacteria around the kitchen. Bacteria can aerosolize under running water and move up to three feet away. Only wash raw fruits and vegetables, and wash them every time.

Mistake number six: Letting food cool down before you put it in the refrigerator. The fridge is designed to cool food down rapidly to reduce bacterial growth. Transfer food to a shallow containers, using several if you are cooling a large amount, and put in the fridge within a few minutes.

Mistake number six: Eating raw ingredients cookie dough, cake batter, and other foods containing cooked eggs (and flour). Raw eggs can harbor pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella. And last year, an E. coli O121 and O26 outbreak was linked to General Mills flour.

Mistake number seven: Marinating meat or seafood on the counter. Pathogenic bacteria grow rapidly in the danger zone of 40°F to 140°F. And if  a consumer uses the same marinade on raw and cooked meats or raw vegetables, it can cross-contaminate the raw foods. If you are going to use marinade again, or use it as a sauce, bring it to a full rolling boil just before serving.

Mistake number eight: Undercooking meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. these foods should be cooked to safe internal temperatures, and that temperature should be tested with a reliable food thermometer. Post this chart from the USDA on your kitchen cabinets for reference.

Mistake number nine: Not washing your hands before you eat or prepare food. Wash your hands with water water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Be sure to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom and after handling raw meats, seafood, poultry, and eggs.

Finally, mistake number ten: Not replacing sponges and dish rags. Those items can hold pathogenic bacteria for days and they can be a serious health risk. Sanitize your sponges every other day and replace them every week or two.


[1] Food Poisoning Bulletin [2] Eatright.org