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Michigan State University Extension
21885 Dunham Road, Suite 12, Clinton Township, MI 48036
(586) 469-6440

Food Safety FAQ's

How can baked potatoes cause botulism?

Because potatoes are grown in the ground, the spores that cause botulism can survive on them.  The spores can grow on potatoes that are wrapped in foil, baked, and left in the foil for periods after baking.  The foil creates an oxygen-reduced environment.  This, coupled with warm room temperatures and moisture, create a prime environment for the bacteria to grow.  Potatoes baked in foil and not immediately consumed should be removed from the foil and stored in the refrigerator.  Source:

How should I pack a cooler when going on a barbeque?
Preferably using two coolers, one with ready to eat foods such as fruits, vegetables, cold salads, etc, and the other with foods that need to be cooked further such as any poultry or meats.  Both coolers should be packed with ice or some other cooling element.  If two coolers are not available, pack poultry and meats on the bottom of the cooler placed in plastic bags, with the ready to eat foods on top, also in plastic bags.


How long can perishable foods stay out during a picnic/barbeque?
A maximum of two hours; however, in 85 degrees F or higher, only a maximum of one hour.

What food items can be saved after a picnic/barbeque?
Any dry baked goods such as hotdog/hamburger buns, cookies and cakes.  Other items such as fruit pies, fresh cut fruits or vegetables, salads, poultry, meats and other perishable items should be discarded if they were out for more than two hours (or one hour if temperatures are 85 degrees F or higher)

What are some safe "lunch" foods that do not have to be refrigerated?
Fruits and vegetables are great choices, along with a peanut butter sandwich. Bagels make good lunches, but the cream cheese and luncheon meat must be kept cold. Items like yogurt and eggs cannot be kept out of the refrigerator.

How long can cooked food be left out of the refrigerator?
Two hours at room temperature and one hour if the room temperature is 80 degrees or above (bacteria multiplies most rapidly at body temperature).

To what temperature should leftovers be reheated?
Leftovers should be reheated to 165 Degrees Fahrenheit.

What is the SAFE and BEST way to test meat for doneness?
A meat thermometer! The USDA recommends that meat should be tested for doneness by using a meat thermometer. Poultry should reach 180 Degrees Fahrenheit, tested in thickest part (inner thigh), and meat should reach 165 Degrees Fahrenheit.

What is the "Danger Zone"?
Bacteria's favorite place! Make sure to keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Any food left between 140 Degrees Fahrenheit and 40 Degrees Fahrenheit is in the "Danger Zone." Hot foods should be maintained at 140 Degrees Fahrenheit or warmer for no more than two hours. Cold foods should be held at 40 Degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

How long can leftovers be stored in the refrigerator?
Some food can be stored in the refrigerator 2-3 days. However, many foods such as custard pies and mayonnaise based salads should be consumed within the day prepared and not stored. But remember...when in doubt, throw it out! For more information, see our "STORING FOODS AT HOME" bulletin available at our office.

What are the three SAFE ways to defrost any kind of meat?
In the refrigerator, in the microwave, and using cold water (changing water every 30 minutes).

What is the proper way to put leftovers away?
As soon as it has been served. It is not necessary to let food "cool down." Immediately after serving food, put it in a shallow container, 1-2 inches deep, and place in the refrigerator or freezer. Food containers should be labeled and dated.

What is the difference between a sanitizing solution and a disinfecting solution?
Sanitizing is cleaning surfaces that food will contact.

On a non-porous surface, the sanitizing solution should be made up of 1 T of bleach for every gallon of water and should remain in contact with the surface for at least 2 minutes.

On a porous surface, the sanitizing solution should be made up of 3 T of bleach for every gallon of water and should be remain in contact with the surface for at least 2 minutes also.

Disinfecting is cleaning surfaces that food will not contact
The ratio of bleach to water is 3/4 of a cup for every gallon of water.

Can young children eat honey?
It is recommended children under two not be given honey to consume. Honey contains natural spores that may cause Infant-botulism.