A Food Safe Mother’s Day

May 5, 2016
Kristina Beaugh, MPH

Kristina Beaugh, MPH, is a member of the Food Safety Education Staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and families are scrambling to find the best way to show Mom how much they love and appreciate her. What do most moms want this year? Probably to sleep late and not have to cook. If that’s the case, it’s up to the rest of the family to prepare a nice meal or take Mom out for a nice meal.

However, if Mom or someone else in your family is going through cancer treatment, it is important to keep food safety in mind at home and in the restaurant. For people with cancer, foodborne illness can lead to a serious infection. Use these tips to make sure your Mother’s Day celebrations are full of love and not food poisoning.

Preparing a Meal for Mom at Home

It is especially important to be careful when you handle and prepare food. The easiest way to do this is to Check Your Steps—Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. share on twitter 

  • Clean. Wash your hands with warm water and soap. Scrub for at least 20 seconds before and after you handle food and after you use the bathroom, change diapers, or handle pets. Wash and sanitize cutting boards and countertops after preparing raw meat or poultry and before preparing other foods that will not be cooked.

  • Separate. Avoid cross-contamination by separating raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods. This applies to your shopping cart, grocery bags, and refrigerator. Use separate cutting boards, utensils, and plates for raw foods and ready-to-eat foods.

  • Cook. To ensure that foods are cooked safely, always measure their internal temperature using a food thermometer.

  • Chill. Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature outside is 90°F (32°C) or hotter. Never thaw food at room temperature, such as on the counter. Instead, thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.

Eating Out for Mother’s Day

Eating out can be a lot of fun—so make sure it is an enjoyable experience by keeping food safety in mind while you read the menu. Don’t hesitate to ask your server how the food is prepared and cooked and whether the food contains any uncooked or raw ingredients. You can also use this chart to help you make smart menu choices.

Higher Risk

Lower Risk

Soft cheese made from unpasteurized (raw) milk

Hard or processed cheeses; soft cheeses only if they are made from pasteurized milk

Refrigerated smoked seafood and raw or undercooked seafood or fish—sashimi, ceviche, or non-vegetarian sushi

Fully cooked fish or seafood

Cold or improperly heated hot dogs

Hot dogs reheated to steaming hot

Soft-boiled or “over-easy” eggs (yolks are not fully cooked)

Fully cooked eggs with firm yolk and whites

Sandwiches with cold deli or luncheon meat

Grilled sandwiches—meat is heated until steaming

Salads, wraps, or sandwiches containing raw sprouts

Salads, wraps, and sandwiches containing fully cooked sprouts 

Need Help?

If you have questions about food safety for your Mother’s Day celebrations, you can call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskUSDA, available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

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