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Germs and Food Poisoning

Barbara Willenberg, Former Associate State Nutrition Specialist

Jo Britt-Rankin, State Nutrition Specialist


Germs need warmth, water and food to grow. Germs grow best in foods containing meat, fish, poultry, egg or milk. These are called perishable foods because they spoil easily. Germs grow very fast at room temperature. You can get food poisoning if you eat perishable foods that have been at room temperature for more than two hours.

Keep food hot or cold

The best way to keep germs from growing in perishable food is to keep it hot or cold. The heat used to cook food will kill most germs. But be sure to keep the food very hot until you serve it. A "warm" oven setting is not hot enough to keep germs from growing.

Be sure to put perishable food in the refrigerator or freezer right away when you get home from the grocery store. Put leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as your meal is over. Chilling food will not kill germs, but they will grow much slower.

Freeze leftover food quickly

If you have a large pot of hot food, separate it into several small containers so it will get cold faster in your refrigerator or freezer. It's okay to put hot food into your refrigerator-it was made to chill hot food. Germs will grow quickly in perishable food if you let it cool on your kitchen counter.

Refrigerator temperature should be 40 degrees or lower. Freezers should be zero degrees. If temperatures are warmer, foods will not stay safe as long. Freezers that are a part of the refrigerator do not get as cold as separate freezers. For this reason food will not keep as long as it would in a separate freezer.


This file is also available as a pdf file here.




Last Updated 10/25/2007










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