Sanitation - food and hygiene

Alternative names 
Food - hygiene and sanitation; Hygiene - food and sanitation; Food safety

Food safety refers to the conditions and practices that preserve the quality of food to prevent contamination and food-borne illnesses.


Proper handling and preparation of food greatly reduces the risks of getting foodborne illnesses. Food can be contaminated in many different ways - during the packaging process, by inadequate cooking or storage.

Different food products may already have different microorganisms such as bacteria or parasites which may be allowed to multiply and cause disease if food is not appropriately handled.

Food Sources
All foods are affected by hygiene and sanitation measures. Higher risk foods include red meats and poultry; eggs; cheese and dairy products; raw sprouts; and raw fish or shellfish.

Side Effects
The main consequence of improper handling and inadequate food safety is infection (foodborne illness), which may be severe and life-threatening especially in young children, older adults, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems.


  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling any food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers or after coming into contact with animals.  
  • Wash all cutting boards and utensils with hot water and soap after preparing each food item and prior to moving on to the next food item. Wear gloves or avoid preparation if your hands have any cuts or sores.  
  • Avoid cross-contaminating food items - separate meat, poultry and seafood from other food and always wash hands, utensils and boards after coming into contact with these products.  
  • Cook to proper temperatures. Cook eggs until both the white and yolk are firm. Fish should be opaque and flake easily. Red meats and poultry should reach an internal temperature of 160 and 180 degrees, respectively. Leftovers must be reheated thoroughly to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  • Refrigerate promptly - some items such as meat and poultry must be frozen if not to be used within 1-2 days. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours. Keep frozen foods in the freezer until they are ready to be thawed and cooked.  
  • Foods can also be contaminated before they are purchased. Watch for and do not use outdated food, packaged food with the seal broken, and cans that have a bulge. Do not use foods that have an unusual odor or a spoiled taste.  
  • Prepare home-canned foods in nearly sterile conditions and with extreme caution. Home-canned food is the most common cause of botulism.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Levon Ter-Markosyan, D.M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.