If you have ever had food poisoning, then you know you would never want to have it again. The CDC estimates that about 48 million people get sick every year from food poisoning, also known as foodborne illness.

September is “National Food Safety Education Month,” a time for all of us to be aware of how we store and prepare our food to prevent foodborne illnesses in ourselves or others.

Anyone can get sick if food is not cooked or handled correctly, but certain groups of people are more susceptible than others. These include children younger than five, adults over 65, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women. Fortunately, we can prevent foodborne illnesses by following these four simple steps.

  • 1

    WASH YOUR HANDS AND SURFACES OFTEN

    Bacteria that can cause food poisoning can survive many places and spread around our kitchen. One way to prevent germs from growing is by washing our hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before, during, and after handling food and before eating it. Another significant rule is to clean our utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water. And, be sure to rinse your fruits and vegetables under running water.

  • 2

    SEPARATE YOUR FOODS

    It is important to separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs to prevent cross-contamination. When grocery shopping, divide your food items in your shopping cart, grocery bags, and inside your refrigerator. Also use different cutting boards and plates for fresh produce, raw meat, poultry, and seafood. And, never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

  • 3

    COOK TO THE SAFE INTERNAL TEMPERATURE

    Safely cook your food to the correct internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. To tell if it is at the right internal temperature, use a food thermometer. Each food has a specific internal temperature. So, make sure you know which proper temperature to cook your food at.

  • 4

    CHILL AND REFRIGERATE PROMPTLY

    Once you are done grocery shopping, refrigerate your food items quickly below 40°F to slow the growth of germs. This is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food poisoning and other diseases. Also, make sure not to overstuff your refrigerator so that you can allow the cool air to circulate. And when thawing frozen food, place it in the fridge, in cold water, or the microwave. Never defrost food on the counter because bacteria can easily spread in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.