Let the Pyramid guide your food choices
Choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains
Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily
Keep food safe to eat

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Let the Pyramid guide your food choices

Different foods contain different nutrients and other healthful substances. No single food can supply all the nutrients in the amounts you need. For example, oranges provide vitamin C and folate but no vitamin B12; cheese provides calcium and vitamin B12; but no vitamin C. To make sure you get all the nutrients and other substances you need for health, build a healthy base by using the Food Guide Pyramid as a starting point. Choose the recommended number of daily servings from each of the five major food groups (box 7). If you avoid all foods from any of the five food groups, seek guidance to help ensure that you get all the nutrients you need.


Box 7

HOW MANY SERVINGS DO YOU NEED EACH DAY?

Food group Children ages 2 to 6 years, women, some older adults (about 1,600 calories) Older children, teen girls, active women, most men (about 2,200 calories) Teen boys, active men (about 2,800 calories)

Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group (Grains Group)—especially whole grain 6 9 11
Vegetable Group 3 4 5
Fruit Group 2 3 4
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group (Milk Group)—preferably fat free or low fat 2 or 3* 2 or 3* 2 or 3*
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group (Meat and Beans Group)—preferably lean or low fat 2, for a total of 5 ounces 2, for a total of 6 ounces 3, for a total of 7 ounces

Adapted from U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. The Food Guide Pyramid, Home and Garden Bulletin Number 252, 1996.
*
The number of servings depends on your age. Older children and teenagers (ages 9 to 18 years) and adults over the age of 50 need 3 servings daily. Others need 2 servings daily. During pregnancy and lactation, the recommended number of milk group servings is the same as for nonpregnant women.

Figure 2

Food Guide Pyramid


Click on image for full view of the "Food Guide Pyramid"


Box 8

WHAT COUNTS AS A SERVING?

Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group (Grains Group)—whole grain and refined
  • 1 slice of bread
  • About 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal
  • 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta
Vegetable Group
  • 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
  • 1/2 cup of other vegetables cooked or raw
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
Fruit Group
  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange, pear
  • 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
  • 3/4 cup of fruit juice
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group (Milk Group)*
  • 1 cup of milk** or yogurt**
  • 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese** (such as Cheddar)
  • 2 ounces of processed cheese** (such as American)
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group (Meat and Beans Group)
  • 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
  • 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans# or 1/2 cup of tofu counts as 1 ounce of lean meat
  • 2 1/2-ounce soyburger or 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or 1/3 cup of nuts counts as 1 ounce of meat

NOTE: Many of the serving sizes given above are smaller than those on the Nutrition Facts Label. For example, 1 serving of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta is 1 cup for the label but only 1/2 cup for the Pyramid.

*
This includes lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk products. One cup of soy-based beverage with added calcium is an option for those who prefer a non-dairy source of calcium.
**
Choose fat-free or reduced-fat dairy products most often.
 
#
Dry beans, peas, and lentils can be counted as servings in either the meat and beans group or the vegetable group. As a vegetable, 1/2 cup of cooked, dry beans counts as 1 serving. As a meat substitute, 1 cup of cooked, dry beans counts as 1 serving (2 ounces of meat).

Use plant foods as the foundation of your meals

There are many ways to create a healthy eating pattern, but they all start with the three food groups at the base of the Pyramid: grains, fruits, and vegetables. Eating a variety of grains (especially whole grain foods), fruits, and vegetables is the basis of healthy eating. Enjoy meals that have rice, pasta, tortillas, or whole grain bread at the center of the plate, accompanied by plenty of fruits and vegetables and a moderate amount of low-fat foods from the milk group and the meat and beans group. Go easy on foods high in fat or sugars.

Keep an eye on servings

Compare the recommended number of servings in box 7 and the serving sizes in box 8 with what you usually eat. If you don't need many calories (because you're inactive, for example), aim for the lower number of servings. Notice that some of the serving sizes in box 8 are smaller than what you might usually eat or see on food labels. For example, many people eat 2 slices of bread in a meal, which equal 2 servings. So it's easy to meet the recommended number of servings. Young children 2 to 3 years old need the same number of servings as others, but smaller serving sizes except for milk.

Also, notice that many of the meals and snacks you eat contain items from several food groups. For example, a sandwich may provide bread from the grains group, turkey from the meat and beans group, and cheese from the milk group.

Choose a variety of foods for good nutrition. Since foods within most food groups differ in their content of nutrients and other beneficial substances, choosing a variety helps you get all the nutrients and fiber you need. It can also help keep your meals interesting from day to day.

There are many healthful eating patterns

Different people like different foods and like to prepare the same foods in different ways. Culture, family background, religion, moral beliefs, the cost and availability of food, life experiences, food intolerances, and allergies affect people's food choices. Use the Food Guide Pyramid as a starting point to shape your eating pattern. It provides a good guide to make sure you get enough nutrients. Make choices from each major group in the Food Guide Pyramid, and combine them however you like. For example, those who like Mexican cuisine might choose tortillas from the grains group and beans from the meat and beans group, while those who eat Asian food might choose rice from the grains group and tofu from the meat and beans group.

If you usually avoid all foods from one or two of the food groups, be sure to get enough nutrients from other food groups. For example, if you choose not to eat milk products because of intolerance to lactose or for other reasons, choose other foods that are good sources of calcium (see box 9), and be sure to get enough vitamin D. Meat, fish, and poultry are major contributors of iron, zinc, and B vitamins in most American diets. If you choose to avoid all or most animal products, be sure to get enough iron, vitamin B12, calcium, and zinc from other sources. Vegetarian diets can be consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and meet Recommended Dietary Allowances for nutrients.

Box 9

SOME SOURCES OF CALCIUM*

  • Yogurt#

  • Milk**#

  • Natural cheeses such as Mozzarella, Cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan#

  • Soy-based beverage with added calcium

  • Tofu, if made with calcium sulfate (read the ingredient list)

  • Breakfast cereal with added calcium

  • Canned fish with soft bones such as salmon, sardines

  • Fruit juice with added calcium

  • Pudding made with milk#

  • Soup made with milk#

  • Dark-green leafy vegetables such as collards, turnip greens


* Read food labels for brand-specific information.

** This includes lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk.

# Choose low-fat or fat-free milk products most often.

† High in salt.


Growing children, teenagers, women, and older adults have higher needs for some nutrients

Adolescents and adults over age 50 have an especially high need for calcium, but most people need to eat plenty of good sources of calcium for healthy bones throughout life. When selecting dairy products to get enough calcium, choose those that are low in fat or fat-free to avoid getting too much saturated fat. Young children, teenage girls, and women of childbearing age need enough good sources of iron, such as lean meats and cereals with added nutrients, to keep up their iron stores (see box 10). Women who could become pregnant need extra folic acid, and older adults need extra vitamin D.

Box 10

SOME SOURCES OF IRON*

  • Shellfish like shrimp, clams, mussels, and oysters

  • Lean meats (especially beef), liver** and other organ meats**

  • Ready-to-eat cereals with added iron

  • Turkey dark meat (remove skin to reduce fat)

  • Sardines

  • Spinach

  • Cooked dry beans (such as kidney beans and pinto beans), peas (such as black-eyed peas), and lentils

  • Enriched and whole grain breads


* Read food labels for brand-specific information.
 
** Very high in cholesterol.
 
† High in salt.
Click on this image for full view of "How to Read a Nutrition Facts Label."

Click on image for full view
of "How to Read a Nutrition
Facts Label"

Check the food label before you buy

Food labels have several parts, including the front panel, Nutrition Facts, and ingredient list. The front panel often tells you if nutrients have been added—for example, "iodized salt" lets you know that iodine has been added, and "enriched pasta" (or "enriched" grain of any type) means that thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, and folic acid have been added.

The ingredient list tells you what's in the food, including any nutrients, fats, or sugars that have been added. The ingredients are listed in descending order by weight.

See figure 3 to learn how to read the Nutrition Facts. Use the Nutrition Facts to see if a food is a good source of a nutrient or to compare similar foods—for example, to find which brand of frozen dinner is lower in saturated fat, or which kind of breakfast cereal contains more folic acid. Look at the % Daily Value (%DV) column to see whether a food is high or low in nutrients. If you want to limit a nutrient (such as fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium), try to choose foods with a lower %DV. If you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as calcium, other vitamins and minerals, fiber), try to choose foods with a higher %DV. As a guide, foods with 5%DV or less contribute a small amount of that nutrient to your eating pattern, while those with 20% or more contribute a large amount. Remember, Nutrition Facts serving sizes may differ from those used in the Food Guide Pyramid (see box 8). For example, 2 ounces of dry macaroni yields about 1 cup cooked, or two (1/2 cup) Pyramid servings.

Use of dietary supplements

Some people need a vitamin-mineral supplement to meet specific nutrient needs. For example, women who could become pregnant are advised to eat foods fortified with folic acid or to take a folic acid supplement in addition to consuming folate-rich foods to reduce the risk of some serious birth defects. Older adults and people with little exposure to sunlight may need a vitamin D supplement. People who seldom eat dairy products or other rich sources of calcium need a calcium supplement, and people who eat no animal foods need to take a vitamin B12 supplement. Sometimes vitamins or minerals are prescribed for meeting nutrient needs or for therapeutic purposes. For example, health care providers may advise pregnant women to take an iron supplement, and adults over age 50 to get their vitamin B12 from a supplement or from fortified foods.

Supplements of some nutrients, such as vitamin A and selenium, can be harmful if taken in large amounts. Because foods contain many substances that promote health, use the Food Guide Pyramid when choosing foods. Don't depend on supplements to meet your usual nutrient needs.

Dietary supplements include not only vitamins and minerals, but also amino acids, fiber, herbal products, and many other substances that are widely available. Herbal products usually provide a very small amount of vitamins and minerals. The value of herbal products for health is currently being studied. Standards for their purity, potency, and composition are being developed.

ADVICE FOR TODAY
Build a healthy base: Use the Food Guide Pyramid to help make healthy food choices that you can enjoy.

Build your eating pattern on a variety of plant foods, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Also choose some low-fat dairy products and low-fat foods from the meat and beans group each day.

It's fine to enjoy fats and sweets occasionally.


Choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains

Foods made from grains (wheat, rice, and oats) help form the foundation of a nutritious diet. They provide vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates (starch and dietary fiber), and other substances that are important for good health. Grain products are low in fat, unless fat is added in processing, in preparation, or at the table. Whole grains differ from refined grains in the amount of fiber and nutrients they provide, and different whole grain foods differ in nutrient content, so choose a variety of whole and enriched grains. Eating plenty of whole grains, such as whole wheat bread or oatmeal (see box 11), as part of the healthful eating patterns described by these guidelines, may help protect you against many chronic diseases. Aim for at least 6 servings of grain products per day—more if you are an older child or teenager, an adult man, or an active woman (see box 7)—and include several servings of whole grain foods. See box 8 for serving sizes.

Why choose whole grain foods?

Vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other protective substances in whole grain foods contribute to the health benefits of whole grains. Refined grains are low in fiber and in the protective substances that accompany fiber. Eating plenty of fiber-containing foods, such as whole grains (and also many fruits and vegetables) promotes proper bowel function. The high fiber content of many whole grains may also help you to feel full with fewer calories. Fiber is best obtained from foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables rather than from fiber supplements for several reasons: there are many types of fiber, the composition of fiber is poorly understood, and other protective substances accompany fiber in foods. Use the Nutrition Facts Label to help choose grains that are rich in fiber and low in saturated fat and sodium.

Box 11

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR INTAKE OF WHOLE GRAIN FOODS

Choose foods that name one of the following ingredients first on the label's ingredient list (see sample in figure 4).
  • brown rice

  • oatmeal

  • whole oats

  • bulgur (cracked wheat)

  • popcorn

  • whole rye

  • graham flour

  • pearl barley

  • whole wheat

  • whole grain corn

Try some of these whole grain foods: whole wheat bread, whole grain ready-to-eat cereal, low-fat whole wheat crackers, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, whole barley in soup, tabouli salad.


 
NOTE: "Wheat flour," "enriched flour," and "degerminated corn meal" are not whole grains.


Figure 4

SAMPLE INGREDIENT LIST FOR A WHOLE GRAIN FOOD

INGREDIENTS: WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WHEAT GLUTEN, SOYBEAN AND/ OR CANOLA OIL, YEAST, SALT, HONEY.

Enriched grains are a new source of folic acid

Folic acid, a form of folate, is now added to all enriched grain products (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron have been added to enriched grains for many years). Folate is a B vitamin that reduces the risk of some serious types of birth defects when consumed before and during early pregnancy. Studies are underway to clarify whether it decreases risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. Whole grain foods naturally contain some folate, but only a few (mainly ready-to-eat breakfast cereals) contain added folic acid as well. Read the ingredient label to find out if folic acid and other nutrients have been added, and check the Nutrition Facts Label to compare the nutrient content of foods like breakfast cereals.

ADVICE FOR TODAY
Build a healthy base by making a variety of grain products a foundation of your diet.

Eat 6 or more servings of grain products daily (whole grain and refined breads, cereals, pasta, and rice). Include several servings of whole grain foods daily for their good taste and their health benefits. If your calorie needs are low, have only 6 servings of a sensible size daily ( see box 8 for examples of serving sizes).

Eat foods made from a variety of whole grains—such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and whole grain corn—every day.

Combine whole grains with other tasty, nutritious foods in mixed dishes.

Prepare or choose grain products with little added saturated fat and a moderate or low amount of added sugars. Also, check the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts Label.

Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily

Fruits and vegetables are key parts of your daily diet. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables of different kinds, as part of the healthful eating patterns described by these guidelines, may help protect you against many chronic diseases. It also promotes healthy bowel function. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are important for good health. Most people, including children, eat fewer servings of fruits and vegetables than are recommended. To promote your health, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables—at least 2 servings of fruits and 3 servings of vegetables—each day.

Why eat plenty of different fruits and vegetables?

Different fruits and vegetables are rich in different nutrients (see box 12). Some fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of carotenoids, including those which form vitamin A, while others may be rich in vitamin C, folate, or potassium. Fruits and vegetables, especially dry beans and peas, also contain fiber and other substances that are associated with good health. Dark-green leafy vegetables, deeply colored fruits, and dry beans and peas are especially rich in many nutrients. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and are filling. Some are high in fiber, and many are quick to prepare and easy to eat. Choose whole or cut-up fruits and vegetables rather than juices most often. Juices contain little or no fiber.

Box 12

WHICH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES PROVIDE THE MOST NUTRIENTS?

The lists below show which fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin A (carotenoids), vitamin C, folate, and potassium. Eat at least 2 servings of fruits and at least 3 servings of vegetables each day:

Sources of vitamin A (carotenoids)

  • Orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin

  • Dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach, collards, turnip greens

  • Orange fruits like mango, cantaloupe, apricots

  • Tomatoes
Sources of vitamin C
  • Citrus fruits and juices, kiwi fruit, strawberries, cantaloupe

  • Broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes

  • Leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, turnip greens, spinach

Sources of folate

  • Cooked dry beans and peas, peanuts

  • Oranges, orange juice

  • Dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach and mustard greens, romaine lettuce

  • Green peas

Sources of potassium

  • Baked white or sweet potato, cooked greens (such as spinach), winter (orange) squash

  • Bananas, plantains, dried fruits such as apricots and prunes, orange juice

  • Cooked dry beans (such as baked beans) and lentils


NOTE: Read Nutrition Facts Labels for product-specific information, especially for processed fruits and vegetables.

Aim for Variety

Try many colors and kinds. Choose any form: fresh, frozen, canned, dried, juices. All forms provide vitamins and minerals, and all provide fiber except for most juices—so choose fruits and vegetables most often. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly before using. If you buy prepared vegetables, check the Nutrition Facts Label to find choices that are low in saturated fat and sodium.

Try serving fruits and vegetables in new ways:

raw vegetables with a low- or reduced-fat dip

vegetables stir-fried in a small amount of vegetable oil

fruits or vegetables mixed with other foods in salads, casseroles, soups, sauces (for example, add shredded vegetables when making meatloaf)

Find ways to include plenty of different fruits and vegetables in your meals and snacks

Buy wisely. Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables are sometimes best buys, and they are rich in nutrients. If fresh fruit is very ripe, buy only enough to use right away.

Store properly to maintain quality. Refrigerate most fresh fruits (not bananas) and vegetables (not potatoes or tomatoes) for longer storage, and arrange them so you'll use up the ripest ones first. If you cut them up or open a can, cover and refrigerate afterward.

Keep ready-to-eat raw vegetables handy in a clear container in the front of your refrigerator for snacks or meals-on-the-go.

Keep a day's supply of fresh or dried fruit handy on the table or counter.

Enjoy fruits as a naturally sweet end to a meal.

When eating out, choose a variety of vegetables at a salad bar.
ADVICE FOR TODAY
Enjoy 5 a day—eat at least 2 servings of fruit and at least 3 servings of vegetables each day (see box 8 for serving sizes).

Choose fresh, frozen, dried, or canned forms and a variety of colors and kinds.

Choose dark-green leafy vegetables, orange fruits and vegetables, and cooked dry beans and peas often.

Keep food safe to eat

Foods that are safe from harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, and chemical contaminants are vital for healthful eating. Safe means that the food poses little risk of foodborne illness (see box 13). Farmers, food producers, markets, food service establishments, and other food preparers have a role to keep food as safe as possible. However, we also need to keep and prepare foods safely in the home, and be alert when eating out.

Box 13

WHAT IS FOODBORNE ILLNESS?

Foodborne illness is caused by eating food that contains harmful bacteria, toxins, parasites, viruses, or chemical contaminants. Bacteria and viruses, especially Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Norwalk-like viruses, are among the most common causes of foodborne illness we know about today. Eating even a small portion of an unsafe food may make you sick. Signs and symptoms may appear within half an hour of eating a contaminated food or may not develop for up to 3 weeks. Most foodborne illness lasts a few hours or days. Some foodborne illnesses have effects that go on for weeks, months, or even years. If you think you have become ill from eating a food, consult your health care provider.

Follow the steps below to keep your food safe. Be very careful with perishable foods such as eggs, meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk products, and fresh fruits and vegetables. If you are at high risk of foodborne illness, be extra careful (see box 14).

Box 14

TIPS FOR THOSE AT HIGH RISK OF FOODBORNE ILLNESS

Who is at high risk of foodborne illness?

  • Pregnant women

  • Young children

  • Older persons

  • People with weakened immune systems or certain chronic illnesses

Besides following the guidance in this guideline, some of the extra precautions those at high risk should take are:

  • Do not eat or drink unpasteurized juices, raw sprouts, raw (unpasteurized) milk and products made from unpasteurized milk.

  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and shellfish (clams, oysters, scallops, and mussels).

New information on food safety is constantly emerging. Recommendations and precautions for people at high risk are updated as scientists learn more about preventing foodborne illness. If you are among those at high risk, you need to be aware of and follow the most current information on food safety.

For the latest information and precautions, call USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-800-535-4555, or FDA's Food Information Line, 1-888-SAFE FOOD, or consult your health care provider. You can also get up-to-date information by checking the government's food safety website at http://www.foodsafety.gov.

Clean. Wash hands and surfaces oftenCook Foods to a Safe Temparature: Recommended Safe Cooking Temperatures

Wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds (count to 30) before you handle food or food utensils. Wash your hands after handling or preparing food, especially after handling raw meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, or eggs. Right after you prepare these raw foods, clean the utensils and surfaces you used with hot soapy water. Replace cutting boards once they have become worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves. Wash raw fruit and vegetables under running water before eating. Use a vegetable brush to remove surface dirt if necessary. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or playing with pets. When eating out, if the tables, dinnerware, and restrooms look dirty, the kitchen may be, too—so you may want to eat somewhere else.

Separate. Separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, or storing

Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and shellfish away from other foods, surfaces, utensils, or serving plates. This prevents cross-contamination from one food to another. Store raw meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish in containers in the refrigerator so that the juices don't drip onto other foods.

Cook. Cook foods to a safe temperature

Uncooked and undercooked animal foods are potentially unsafe. Proper cooking makes most uncooked foods safe. The best way to tell if meat, poultry, or egg dishes are cooked to a safe temperature is to use a food thermometer (figure 5). Several kinds of inexpensive food thermometers are available in many stores.

Reheat sauces, soups, marinades, and gravies to a boil. Reheat leftovers thoroughly to at least 165 F. If using a microwave oven, cover the container and turn or stir the food to make sure it is heated evenly throughout. Cook eggs until whites and yolks are firm. Don't eat raw or partially cooked eggs, or foods containing raw eggs, raw (unpasteurized) milk, or cheeses made with raw milk. Choose pasteurized juices. The risk of contamination is high from undercooked hamburger, and from raw fish (including sushi), clams, and oysters. Cook fish and shellfish until it is opaque; fish should flake easily with a fork. When eating out, order foods thoroughly cooked and make sure they are served piping hot.

Chill. Refrigerate perishable foods promptly

When shopping, buy perishable foods last, and take them straight home. At home, refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, fish, shellfish, ready-to-eat foods, and leftovers promptly. Refrigerate within 2 hours of purchasing or preparation—and within 1 hour if the air temperature is above 90 F. Refrigerate at or below 40 F, or freeze at or below 0 F. Use refrigerated leftovers within 3 to 4 days. Freeze fresh meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish that cannot be used in a few days. Thaw frozen meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish in the refrigerator, microwave, or cold water changed every 30 minutes. (This keeps the surface chilled.) Cook foods immediately after thawing. Never thaw meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish at room temperature. When eating out, make sure that any foods you order that should be refrigerated are served chilled.

Follow the label

Read the label and follow safety instructions on the package such as "KEEP REFRIGERATED" and the "SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS."

Serve safely

Keep hot foods hot (140 F or above) and cold foods cold (40 F or below). Harmful bacteria can grow rapidly in the "danger zone" between these temperatures. Whether raw or cooked, never leave meat, poultry, eggs, fish, or shellfish out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour in hot weather 90 F or above). Be sure to chill leftovers as soon as you are finished eating. These guidelines also apply to carry-out meals, restaurant leftovers, and home-packed meals-to-go.

When in doubt, throw it out

If you aren't sure that food has been prepared, served, or stored safely, throw it out. You may not be able to make food safe if it has been handled in an unsafe manner. For example, a food that has been left at room temperature too long may contain a toxin produced by bacteria—one that can't be destroyed by cooking. So if meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, or eggs have been left out for more than 2 hours, or if the food has been kept in the refrigerator too long, don't taste it. Just throw it out. Even if it looks and smells fine, it may not be safe to eat. If you have doubt when you're shopping or eating out, choose something else. For more information, contact USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-800-535-4555, or FDA's Food Information Line, 1-888-SAFE FOOD. Also, ask your local or state health department or Cooperative Extension Service Office for further guidance.

ADVICE FOR TODAY
Build a healthy base by keeping food safe to eat.

Clean. Wash hands and surfaces often.

Separate. Separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, or storing.

Cook. Cook foods to a safe temperature.

Chill. Refrigerate perishable foods promptly.

Check and follow the label.

Serve safely.  Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

When in doubt, throw it out.

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