Food Safety, Part 1 of 2

University of Nevada, Reno
Southern Area Cooperative Extension
Seniors CAN

Lesson Plan

Lesson: Food Safety, Part 1

Lesson Number: FS-1


The two-part “Food Safety” lesson is designed to introduce Learners to food safety during all stages of food preparation, because older adults currently represent the largest segment of the United States population that is considered “at-risk” for foodborne illnesses.

Part 1 of the lesson covers shopping for and transporting food items as well as food safety temperatures.

Part 2 of the lesson covers food safety in the kitchen: cooking, preparing and storing food safely.

Learning Overview: The Learner will participate in a lesson designed to teach him/her basic food safety techniques.

Lesson Objectives:

  1. During the lesson, the Learner will be exposed to food safety techniques during the following stages of food preparation:
    • Shopping.
    • Transporting.
    • Food safety temperatures.
  2. During the lesson, the Learner will engage in group discussion regarding Food Safety, describing with clarity at least one example from his/her life experience.
  3. During group discussion, either spontaneously or in response to Facilitator request, the Learner will state with clarity that s/he has selected at least one idea presented during the lesson, what that idea is, and that s/he will try this idea during the following week to see if it works for him/her. Alternatively, the Learner will state with clarity that s/he does not want to try out any of the ideas presented, and the reason for the decision.


Set up at previous meeting:

Next week, we will be exploring how we can keep ourselves healthier through food safety practices.


Set up immediately prior to this meeting:



Provided by Facilitator:

One of each of the following for each Learner:

Note: Facilitator should review lesson plan for this week, last week and next week because information provided at the beginning of each lesson plan is needed for smooth transition between lessons.





USFDA, Jan/Feb 1991; Revised March 2003. The Unwelcome Dinner Guest: Preventing Foodborne Illness. Publication no. FDA 00-2244. (Access date: 7/12/08).

USDA, FSIS, Consumer Education and Information, Modified February 2007. FOCUS ON: Food Product Dating. (Access date: 7/15/08).

CDC Food Safety Office Main page. WebPages last reviewed on July 12, 2008.

To Your Health! Food Safety for Seniors. FDA/USDA booklet. Updated 2006. Safe Eats: Eating Out/Bringing In. FDA/CFSAN-Food Safety for YOU! 2007 Edition.


Begin Lesson:

Transition from last week

Last week we talked about (name of last week’s unit). Each of us selected one idea to try out. Let’s talk about how those worked (or didn’t work) for us, and also what we learned from last week’s meeting.

Anticipatory Set:

Today we will explore food safety. There are three reasons that we think this topic is important:

  1. The CDC states that 76 million people will become sick by eating contaminated food and categorize seniors as an “at risk” group.
  2. Foods contaminated by harmful bacteria and viruses, like E. coli, can cause a food borne illness.
  3. Food poisoning can be prevented by understand and practicing safe food handling techniques.

Share the Objective:

  1. During the lesson, we will be discussing food safety techniques to use from the time you shop for food in the store to the time you take it home and put it away. These are the first three stages of food preparation:
    • A. Shopping.
    • B. Transporting.
    • C. Food Safety Temperatures.
  2. During this lesson, I will be providing information, but it is also important that we share information and ask questions in group discussion. I would appreciate it if each of you could bring up at least one example from your life experience.
  3. Also during the lesson today, I’m going to ask each of you to select one idea from the lesson to try out on your own over the next week. I’ll pick one, too. Then each of us can share with the group next week how it worked out.

Share the Handout:

This summarizes the main ideas we will be discussing today. [Pass out handout.] Please feel free to take notes and as questions as they arise.


I. Introduction

  1. Seniors have years of experience and a strong background in the areas of food shopping and consumption. However, the way food is produced, distributed, prepared and even eaten has changed dramatically in recent years. This has created a number of crucial food safety issues that could lead to serious illness, even death. Taking a few simple precautions can prevent these food borne illnesses.
  2. Consider these facts:
    1. Grocery stores stock food from all over the world.
    2. Restaurant meals, carry-out and food prepared outside the home account for 50% of money spent on food.
    3. New information is constantly being discovered about dangerous bacteria in food and the illnesses it can cause.
    4. Older adults are more susceptible and considered “at-risk” for food borne illnesses.
    5. Food borne illness can be prevented.

II. What is Food Poisoning?

  1. Food poisoning is often referred to as a food borne illness. The main causes are bacteria and viruses. Some of the more common names are: Salmonella, E. coli, and Hepatitis A. When food becomes contaminated with bacteria or viruses that cause food borne illness, a person can become ill by eating the food.
  2. Each year in the United States, 5,000 people die from food poisoning. Older adults have a greater risk of death from eating tainted foods than younger adults. Other serious complications include arthritis, blood poisoning, liver disease, meningitis, kidney failure, strokes and seizures.
  3. Food borne illness can occur within 24 hours of eating contaminated food, or even days or weeks later. Common symptoms of food borne illness include: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever. The most common symptom is diarrhea. Most cases of food borne illness never get diagnosed because symptoms are mistaken for the flu. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 76 million people each year get sick by eating contaminated food.
  4. Some food is contaminated before we purchase it. Food can also become contaminated when we transport, store, prepare or serve it. These are food safety areas, that we as consumers, control. It is important to use food safety techniques during every stage that we have contact with food.
  5. Prevention starts with your trip to the grocery store.

III. Avoiding Cross Contamination

  1. When shopping, make sure meat, poultry, fish, seafood, milk, milk products and eggs are not dripping onto other foods, especially those eaten raw, like fruits and vegetables. This causes cross contamination.
    1. Separate these different food items in your shopping basket. Use the small area under the child seat to put your meats to prevent them from dripping on other foods. Be careful about what you put below the raw meat, poultry, fish, milk, etc.
    2. Make sure meat, poultry, fish and seafood are packed separately in plastic bags before or at the checkout counter.
    3. If the meat department doesn't supply plastic bags, get some from the produce department. Place each package of meat into one of the bags before you place it in your shopping cart.

IV. Plan Your Trip

  1. Meat, poultry fish, shellfish, milk and eggs are potentially hazardous because they are rich in nutrients, moist and low in acid. With warmth, this combination sets the stage for dangerous bacteria to rapidly grow and multiply. The temperatures above 40 degrees F and below 140 degrees F are considered the “food safety danger zone.” Perishable foods left in the danger zone too long allow bacteria and viruses to multiply to a large enough number that you can get sick.
    1. A refrigerator keeps foods cooler than 40 degrees F. When you take meat from the refrigerator case in the store, it starts warming up to the temperature inside the grocery store, 65 to 75 degrees; temperatures in the food safety danger zone.
    2. You shop for these foods last to limit the time spent in your shopping cart, before being refrigerated at home.
  2. Buy pasteurized milk, cheese, ciders and juices.
  3. Choose eggs that are not cracked, that look clean, and have not expired.
  4. Don’t buy cans or jars that are dented, bulging, cracked or have loose lids.
  5. Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.
  6. Choose frozen packages that are not open, torn, have crushed edges or are above the top of the store freezer compartment.
  7. Transport food home as quickly as possible, in a cooler or insulated bag if necessary.

V. Food Product Dating

  1. Product dating is not required by federal regulations (except for infant formula). Therefore, there is not a standard dating system. However, common product dating used by manufacturers can provide basic information about foods.
  2. Common food product dating codes:
    1. sell by: Tells the store how long the product should be displayed for sale. You should not purchase the product after this date.
    2. best if used by (or before): Tells how long the product will retain its freshness, peak quality and best flavor. This is not a food safety date.
    3. use by: The last recommended date for using the product at peak quality. This date is determined by the manufacturer. Discard food when “use by” date has expired.
    4. closed or coded: Manufacturer’s packing codes for the products, which assist in tracking inventory, rotating stock, or locating the product if a problem arises. These dates are not an indication of product freshness or quality.

VI. Transporting Food Safely

  1. Remember these safety temperatures while transporting your food:
    1. Danger Zone 40°F-140°F
      Perishable foods like meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk, and eggs can become seriously contaminated if left unrefrigerated. Warm temperatures can lead to dangerous bacteria growth. IF FOOD STAYS IN THIS RANGE for more than 2 hours; or more than 1 hour in hot summer months, it should be THROWN OUT. Bacteria can double every twenty minutes at room temperature.
    2. Safe Refrigerator Temperatures 32°F-40°F
      This is a safe temperature for transporting and storing perishable foods because refrigeration slows bacterial growth. When a refrigerator is set at 40 degrees or below, it will protect most foods until they are eaten or their storage time expires.
    3. Safe Freezer Temperature 0°F
      Foods kept at this temperature will have an extended storage time. Freezing stops, but does not kill, harmful bacteria.
  2. Safely bringing your food into your home:
    1. In the summer, grocery shop early in the morning or in the evening when it is cooler outside.
    2. Don’t do other errands on the way home from the grocery store. The temperature in a parked car in the summertime can exceed 140 degrees within a few minutes!
    3. While transporting groceries, always keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
    4. Place food in the air conditioned part of the car and not the trunk.
    5. Refrigerate or freeze perishables or prepared foods within 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or higher.
    6. If the travel time from store to home will be longer than one hour, pack your perishable food in an ice chest or insulated bag. Be especially careful to do this during hot weather.
    7. If you are taking a meal or a snack home with you, from a restaurant (doggie bag) or a friend’s house, use an insulated food safety bag (or ice cooler) to keep it cool.
    8. Transport food safely by remembering the 2-hour rule and discard any foods that have entered the danger zone.

VII. “When in doubt, throw it out.”

  1. Put perishable food away as soon as you get home from the store. If the food has been left out (unrefrigerated) for more than 2 hours, throw it away. Exception: If it’s 90 degrees F or higher where the food is, or outside when food is transported, the limit drops to one hour.
  2. Some of you may have lived through some very hard times. When people know what it is like to do without, it is sometimes very hard to throw things away that might still be useful. But with food, it’s better to never take a chance. It costs a whole lot more in the long run to become sick or die from a foodborne illness than to throw away food that might be spoiled.

Monitoring / Discussion:

Q: Has food safety advice changed over the years? What's different now? Is there anything in the information presented that's different from what you have always thought to be true?

Q: Is shopping for milk, milk products, meat, poultry and fish last different from how you shop now?

A: (Work to resolve any problems presented on why it is difficult to shop that way.)

Q: How difficult or easy would it be to pack perishable foods in an ice chest at the grocery store if your trip home will take more than an hour? What adjustments do you make in hot Las Vegas summers?

A: (Work to resolve any problems presented on why it is difficult to shop that way.)

Q: Let’s check on how much we have learned. What is the temperature danger zone, and why is it important?

A: 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F. Important because when food is in the danger zone, dangerous bacterial growth can result.

Q: How do you know whether your refrigerator is the right temperature? A: Check it with a thermometer.

Modeling Demonstration:

Checking refrigerator temperature. When I first arrived, I put a refrigerator thermometer in the refrigerator.

[Ask group members to gather at the refrigerator. Check temperature of thermometer placed earlier to see if refrigerator is at proper temperature. Ask each Learner to look at the thermometer and explain to them how to read thermometer; keep thermometer in refrigerator while it is being read. Give each Learner a refrigerator thermometer, explaining how long to keep thermometer in closed refrigerator (generally 15 minutes) before reading the temperature and ask them to report their results to the class next week.

Independent Practice:

This can be done at any time during the lesson. It seems to work better when it is not done in the rush at the end of a meeting. "I’d like for each of us to select at least one idea, from what we're learning, to try out this week. Let’s choose something easy to experiment with. Next week we can all compare our experiences and see what worked and what didn't."


Look at next week’s lesson plan for: “Set up at previous meeting.”

It begins: “Next week, we will be exploring . . ..”