Food Safety for the Volunteer Worker

A copy of the Food Safety for the Volunteer Worker brochure is available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF, 502KB, 2pgs.)

Preventing foodborne illness starts with basic food safety ... and you

Foodborne illness can be prevented

Foodborne illness happens when someone eats food that is contaminated. Some of the common organisms or pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses are

  • bacteria - Salmonella, E. coli
  • viruses - Hepatitis A, Norovirus
  • parasites - Cryptosporidium, Giardia

This brochure describes how you can prevent foodborne illnesses by properly handling and cooking food.

All foods can become contaminated and cause illness. However, some foods spoil rapidly at room temperature and need special handling to keep them safe. These are called potentially hazardous foods.

Storing, cooling and holding potentially hazardous foods properly will slow bacterial growth.

Some examples of potentially hazardous foods are meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, cooked vegetables, cooked pasta, rice and potatoes.

Good health and hygiene are critical for food safety

To wash hands, lather with hot water and soap for 20 seconds, rinse and dry on single-use paper towels.

Sick food workers are the leading cause of foodborne illness. To prevent the spread of disease, don't come to work if you ...

  • are sick with vomiting or diarrhea.
  • have infected wounds, sores or boils.
  • think you may have any illness that could be spread by handling food.

Even when you are healthy, it is important to practice good hygiene when working with food:

  • Wash hands before work and after using the toilet, smoking, sneezing, coughing, eating, drinking or otherwise soiling your hands.
  • Wear gloves when working with ready-to-eat foods, such as sandwiches and salads.
  • Keep hair restrained by a hat or other method.
  • Wear clean clothing or aprons.

Food preparation areas must be clean and sanitary

  • Empty and remove trash frequently.
  • Keep all food preparation and service areas clean and free of debris. Take these three steps to clean equipment and service areas:
    • Wash in hot, soapy water.
    • Rinse in hot clean water.
    • Sanitize food contact surfaces.
  • Sanitize equipment that is used for food preparation, such as pans, knives, spoons, cutting boards or countertops. Sanitizing means killing bacteria and other organisms that cause illness.
  • To sanitize surfaces after cleaning, wipe them with a sanitizing solution safe for food-contact surfaces, such as bleach and water.

To make a bleach and water sanitizing solution, add one tablespoon of unscented household bleach into one gallon of water. Change solution every few hours or when it looks dirty.

Keep food at proper temperature to slow the growth of bacteria

Minimum Cooking Temperatures
°F °C
165 74 Chicken and turkey
158 70 Ground beef and sausage
150 66 Pork
145 63 Eggs and fish
130 54 Beef (except ground)

Reheat all foods to 165°F/74°C

  • Cold holding: Food in refrigerators or coolers must be below 41°F /5°C.
  • Hot holding: Hot foods that are being held for service must be above 135°F / 57°C.
  • Some foods must be cooked to certain temperatures before they can be served. See Minimum Cooking Temperatures above.
  • Check cooking and holding temperatures often.
    A probe thermometer is required!

Other important points to remember

Use only potable (drinkable) water for cleaning and cooking. Do not use water from unapproved sources.
Keep raw food preparation areas separate from areas with cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Do not use equipment or containers that have contacted raw food for cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
Use only food grade equipment in your operation. Do not use buckets from a hardware store, for example.

DO NOT FORGET: Do not accept or use foods that come from unknown sources or that are home-prepared. Use foods that come from an approved source.

Publication 7078, Revised 08/2005