Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Food Safety FAQ

Select a question below to expand the answer.

Where can I find information about food safety?

Information can be obtained from the following:

  • Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 1-800-HELP FLA, (850) 245-5520
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1-800-535-4555
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 1-800-332-4010

What is foodborne illness?

A foodborne illness is a disease that is transmitted to humans by food. Recent developments in diagnosing and tracking reported illnesses have helped the public become more aware that certain types of illness may be related to the food they ate prior to becoming sick.

How do I report a foodborne illness?

You should report a foodborne illness directly to the Florida Department of Health (DOH) using the DOH's online submission form.

Who is at risk?

The human immune system helps fight infection, but the immune systems of very young children, pregnant women, the elderly and chronically ill people are at greatest risk to develop foodborne infections.

How does food become hazardous?

Food becomes hazardous by contamination. Contamination is the unintended presence of harmful substances or microorganisms in food. Food can become contaminated from chemical, physical or biological sources.

What is cross-contamination?

Cross-contamination is the transportation of harmful substances to food by:

  1. Hands that touch raw foods, such as chicken, then touch food that will not be cooked, like salad ingredients or other ready-to-eat foods.
  2. Surfaces or cleaning cloths that touch raw foods, are not cleaned and sanitized, then touch ready-to-eat food.
  3. Raw or contaminated foods that touch or drip fluids on cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

Why are microorganisms important?

Microorganisms are everywhere. You may not see, taste or smell them, but they hide on your body, in the air, on kitchen counters and utensils, and in food. The main microorganisms are viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria.

What is the greatest threat to food safety?

Of all the microorganisms, bacteria are the greatest threat to food safety. Bacteria are single-celled, living organisms that can grow quickly at favorable temperatures. Some bacteria are useful. We use them to make foods like cheese, buttermilk, sauerkraut and pickles. Other bacteria are infectious-disease-causing agents called pathogens that use the nutrients found in potentially hazardous foods to multiply.

What conditions encourage bacteria to grow?

Bacteria can live in hotter and colder temperatures than humans, but they do best in a warm, moist, protein-rich environment that is pH neutral or slightly acidic. There are exceptions, however. Some bacteria thrive in extreme heat or cold, while others can survive under highly acidic or extremely salty conditions. Most bacteria that cause disease grow fastest in the temperature range between 41 and 135 degrees F, which is known as THE DANGER ZONE.