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Oh, the Places You’ll Go – With Food Safety!

By: Janell Goodwin, Technical Information Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA

“Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!”

Welcome to yet another rendition of the infamous Dr. Seuss tale that you’ve probably heard at your graduation ceremonies and from family and friends. By the time I graduated college, I could basically recite this genius rhyme with my eyes closed. But how could you not?! It’s witty, inspiring, and the perfect gift to any graduate!

Food safety is another gift that I’m sure graduates all over will appreciate on their big day. Why?

Did you know foodborne illness causes an estimated 3,000 deaths each year in the United States?

“With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.” Let’s pretend foodborne illness is that not-so-good street Dr. Seuss forewarned us about. But good news! Food poisoning is completely preventable. Keep you and your loved ones safe during graduation celebrations with these tips!

Doing the Cooking?

  • Plan ahead, but don’t purchase perishable foods too early. They may spoil before party day. Be aware of cold food storage times for best quality and safety.
  • When preparing party food, wash hands and surfaces often.

Grilling Out?

  • Use separate plates for raw and cooked foods when grilling.
  • Remember to use a food thermometer. Cooking foods to a safe internal temperature is the only way to destroy bacteria.

Having it Catered?

  • Use chafing dishes, your oven or slow cookers to keep hot foods hot! Hold at or above 140°F (60°C).
  • Place cold food in containers on ice. Hold cold foods at or below 40°F (4°C).

“And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)” But just in case you’re not as optimistic as Dr. Seuss, we’re here to help!

Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (1-888-674-6854) Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, or email or chat at