Foodborne Diseases

The food supply in the United States is remarkably safe. Nevertheless, food can become contaminated with a variety of germs.

After eating contaminated food, people can develop anything from a short, mild illness, often mistakenly referred to as "food poisoning," to life-threatening disease. CDC estimates that 76 million Americans get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 people die from foodborne illnesses each year.

Preventing Foodborne Illness

  • To be safe, use a meat thermometer to make sure turkey is cooked to an internal temperature of 180 degrees F. The stuffing in the body cavity of the bird should reach 165 degrees F. The oven temperature should be at least 325 degrees. Roasting a turkey at a lower temperature can allow harmful bacteria to multiply.
  • Thaw frozen poultry in the refrigerator. Gradual defrosting is best. Never thaw turkey at room temperature.
  • Be sure that food has been thoroughly heated before serving. Bring sauces, soups and gravies to a boil when reheating. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold (140 degrees F. or higher, 41 degrees F. or lower).
  • Do not allow cooked food to stay out of the refrigerator or freezer for more than two hours. Promptly refrigerate or freeze leftovers in shallow containers or wrapped tightly in bags.
  • Use common sense regarding leftovers--when in doubt, throw it out!
  • Wash hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw food.
  • Do not allow cooked food to come in contact with raw products. Use separate cutting boards and utensils or wash items completely with hot soapy water between use.
  • Avoid eating raw, rare or undercooked ground beef. Cook to an internal temperature of 155 degrees F. until gray or brown throughout (not pink). Make sure that any juices run clear.
  • Drink only pasteurized fruit juices and milk.
  • After shopping, quickly freeze or refrigerate all perishable foods.
  • Use refrigerated ground meat in 1-2 days; frozen meat in 3-4 months.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Serve food with clean plates and utensils.
  • Marinate food in the refrigerator--not on the kitchen counter. Discard the marinade after use because it contains raw juices that may harbor bacteria.
  • Brew tea for a minimum of five minutes at 175 degrees F. or above. Any other method of brewing at a lower temperature (i.e., "sun tea) should be avoided.

If you have additional questions or concerns:

Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at: 
or send Email to:

Call the FDA Food Safety Hotline at: 
or send Email to: