KANSAS CITY, Mo. – People staying home because of the COVID-19 outbreak likely means more time in the kitchen. Now might be a perfect time to learn or review safe food handling practices aimed at keeping foodborne illnesses at bay, says University of Missouri Extension food safety specialist Londa Nwadike.

Four main food safety concepts are clean, chill, separate and cook.

  1. Clean. Wash hands and surfaces often.
  2. Chill. Refrigerate promptly.
  3. Separate. Don’t cross-contaminate.
  4. Cook. Cook to proper temperatures.

“Wash your hands often,” said Nwadike, who has a joint extension appointment with MU and Kansas State University. “Use water and any soap, rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, rinse with water and dry with a clean towel.”

More food safety information, including a fact sheet about those sometimes confusing “sell by” and “use by” dates on food packaging, is available on the MU Extension food safety website at

Tips include:

Grocery shopping. If running several errands, shop for food last to avoid leaving it too long in a hot car (even in cold weather, direct sunlight can rapidly heat the interior of a closed vehicle). Keep meat, poultry, fish or seafood separate from other food items in the cart.

Storing. Keep the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder to slow bacterial growth.

Cooking. Cook food thoroughly to kill bacteria. Use a food thermometer to help determine doneness.

Serving. Keep raw and cooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood separate. Never place cooked foods on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood. Refrigerate leftover food within two hours of preparing, serving and eating.

Leftovers. Divide large amounts of leftover foods into shallow containers for quicker cooling.

If there are children at home, this is a great time to include them in preparing meals while teaching them how to handle food properly and why it’s important, Nwadike said.

“Even though there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 has been transmitted through food or food packaging, it is always important to use good food safety practices, which will help control foodborne illness as well as COVID-19,” she said.

The eight-page guide “At-Home Safe Food Handling: It’s in Your Hands” is available for free download at

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