Blog post

Food safety and kidney disease: 4 things to remember

Our guest blog post from shares four simple steps that can help protect you and your family from foodborne illness this holiday season.

People living with kidney disease know that nutritious, kidney-friendly foods can help keep them healthy. But did you know that food safety can be just as important to staying healthy?

Foodborne illness is a serious problem in the United States. According to the CDC, 1 in 6 Americans will get foodborne illness each year, causing nearly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Unfortunately, having kidney disease can put you at a greater risk: kidney disease, diabetes or a transplant can all lower your immune system's ability to fight off infection. That can lead to more serious foodborne illnesses. And as you get older, you are also more likely to get sick from contaminated food.

But have no fear! Here are four simple steps that can help protect you and your family from foodborne illness:

Illustration of the four steps to food safety

1. Clean

Always wash your hands well before preparing and eating food and after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Then rinse and dry your hands with a clean towel. Also, clean and then sanitize any sinks, counters and kitchen utensils that touch raw foods.

2. Separate

Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from fruits, vegetables and ready-to-eat foods. Apply this tip at the grocery store, in your fridge and as you cook. Use separate grocery bags for meat and fresh produce at the store. Keep cutting boards for raw meats and produce separate. Also, do not use the same plates or utensils for raw and cooked foods.

3. Cook

Cook all meat, poultry, seafood and egg dishes to a safe internal temperature. Always use a food thermometer to make sure that your food is safe to eat. Do not rely on color, texture or cooking experience to "know" if it is done! Even leftovers must be reheated to a safe temperature of 165°F.

4. Chill

Keep your food safe in the refrigerator or freezer. Never leave groceries or leftovers out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Leftovers are only safe in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. After that, put them in the freezer for longer, safe storage or throw them away. When in doubt, throw it out!

Special considerations for people with kidney disease

If you have kidney disease, diabetes or a transplant, you are more likely to get foodborne illness than others. This may be because of where the food comes from or how it is processed. It may also be because of how you prepare the food at home. While some foods are healthy and can be a good source of nutrients for people with kidney disease, take extra care to be safe when making or eating them.

Uncooked fresh fruits and vegetables

Make sure to always rinse raw produce before peeling, cutting or eating to wash away any dirt or germs. Scrub firm fruits and vegetables with a brush. When possible, it is safer to cook produce because heat can kill bacteria that causes foodborne illness.

Chart of meat temperatures when they are cooked

Raw and/or undercooked foods, especially:

  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk or juices
  • Soft cheeses made with raw milk
  • Raw or undercooked eggs
  • Raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices

These raw foods can contain bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Check the label to avoid milk, cheese or juices that are raw or unpasteurized. Raw meat, poultry, fish and egg dishes must be cooked to a safe internal temperature and checked with a food thermometer for safety. Cook whole cuts of meat to a 145°F internal temperature (with a three-minute rest time). Prepare ground meat, egg dishes and casseroles to 160°F. Seafood is ready at 145°F. All poultry products must be cooked to 165°F.

Luncheon meats and deli-type salads

In addition to high sodium levels, deli salads and meat can also contain bacteria that can make you very sick. To kill any dangerous germs, reheat hot dogs and lunch meats to 165°F or until they are steaming hot. Avoid deli salads like tuna, chicken, egg or macaroni salads.

For more information:

  • Visit to learn more about how to safely handle and prepare food and view food safety Fact Sheets.
  • Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert.
  • Chat live with a food safety expert at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
  • Follow USDA Food Safety on Twitter at @USDAFoodSafety or on Facebook at

Email or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 to order educational materials about food safety.


Chrystal Okonta, MSPH, CHES

Chrystal Okonta, MSPH, CHES, is a technical information specialist with the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. In her role, she seeks to protect public health and prevent foodborne illness. She leads educational efforts to improve the public’s knowledge and awareness of food safety. She also engages consumers by answering questions about food safety via email, chat and USDA’s hotline.