Some people may want to lose weight and/or get more exercise. Other people may want to read more and spend less time in front of the television or computer. There are just as many types of resolutions as there are types of people, but there are four easy resolutions that can help everyone have a safer and healthier New Year.

Resolve to fight foodborne illness by following these four basic messages of safe food preparation:

Clean: Resolve to clean up your act by washing your hands before and after handling food, before eating, after a visit to the restroom, after contact with animals or pets, and after coughing, sneezing, or nose wiping. Thoroughly wash and rinse utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with soap and hot water. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water just before eating, cutting, or cooking.

Separate: Resolve to separate yourself from sickness by keeping raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood (and their juices) away from other foods. At the grocery store, separate these foods from other items in the shopping cart. Place them in plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other food and potentially spreading harmful bacteria. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

Cook: Resolve to cook the bacteria away by using a food thermometer. Since color and temperature are unreliable indicators of safety, using a food thermometer is the only way to ensure the safety of meat, poultry, seafood, and egg products. These foods must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperatureto destroy any harmful bacteria:

  • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
  • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F.
  • Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.

Chill: Resolve to chill after eating your fill. Refrigerate leftover foods promptly; they should not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Use an appliance thermometer to ensure that the temperature of the refrigerator is 40 °F or below and the temperature of the freezer is 0 °F or below. Perishable food should be thawed in the refrigerator, in the microwave, or in cold water and never on the counter or in hot water.

By resolving to fight foodborne illness through these four basic messages, you will be safer, healthier, and have a better opportunity to make the rest of your resolutions into reality.

Ask Karen, the virtual food safety representative, is available 24/7 at Weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is available at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or via live chat at