Start with clean hands. Wash with soap and water for 20 seconds (sing "Happy Birthday" twice) before and after handling food -- and after other activities, such as changing diapers or using the bathroom.
Ideally, use separate cutting boards for fruits and vegetables and raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.
Wash fruits and vegetables under running water. Scrubbing melons and cucumbers with a clean brush is recommended; using soap to clean them is not.
Some home cooks wash their meat under running water before cooking, but, experts say, that can spread contaminated juices in places that may not be visible.
Use hot, soapy water to clean utensils and cutting boards after preparing foods; use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean towels to clean work surfaces.
Proper cooking is essential for meat, poultry and seafood. Cooking temperatures have to reach a certain temperature to destroy bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella; a meat thermometer is the only way to be sure those temperatures have been reached.
A thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone. Ground beef, lamb and poultry should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit; whole chickens, turkeys and poultry parts to 165 degrees; and whole cuts of meat-like steaks, chops and roasts to 145 degrees, followed by three minutes of rest time before carving or eating.
Harmful bacteria can start growing at room temperature, so any leftovers should go into the fridge or freezer within two hours of cooking.
Storage times for the fridge and freezer can vary depending on the food.