Illinois Department of Public Health, Food Safety Fact Sheet

Four Ways to Make Safer Food Selections

Your Guide to Safer Eating Out and Taking Out

You’re probably already taking precautions against foodborne illness at home, but you need to be careful when you are away from home, too.

Here are four easy steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones when you are selecting foods that are ready to eat at a restaurant, delicatessen, take-out counter or grocery store.

1Be Aware of Raw or Undercooked Foods

Foods from animals such as meat, poultry, fish, shellfish and eggs when eaten raw or undercooked sometimes contain harmful viruses and bacteria that can pose a risk of foodborne illness. Young children, pregnant women, older adults and those with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable. You are at increased risk if you suffer from liver disease or alcoholism, if you have decreased stomach acidity (due to gastric surgery or the use of antacids or certain prescription or over-the-counter medications), or if you have a compromised immune system due to steroid use; conditions such as AIDS, cancer or diabetes; or treatments such as chemotherapy.

To reduce your chances of foodborne illness you should stay away from the following foods:

2Ask about Preparation

Recipes vary. If you are not sure whether a ready-to-eat item contains undercooked ingredients, ask how the food is prepared.

3Request that Food Be Thoroughly Cooked

If the item you are interested in selecting contains raw or undercooked meat, fish, shellfish or eggs, ask if that ingredient can be eliminated. If the food is prepared to order, ask for it to be thoroughly cooked.

4Make a Different Choice

With certain foods, such as oysters on the half shell or an egg-based mousse, it may be impossible to accommodate your request for thorough cooking. In that case, simply choose something else. It is a minor inconvenience compared to the major problems caused by foodborne illness.

Foodborne illness is preventable if you take the right precautions.


Raw or under
cooked eggs:

Caesar salad dressing; soft-cooked eggs; Monte Cristo sandwich; meringue pie; some puddings and custards; mousse; sauces made with raw eggs (e.g., hollandaise)

Everyone, especially

older adults,
young children,
Salmonellla enteritidis

Raw dairy products:

Raw or unpasteurized
milk; some soft cheeses
like… Camembert, Brie

Everyone, especially

pregnant women,
older adults,
young children
Listeria monocytogenes,
E. coli O157:H7,

Raw or rare meat:


Everyone, especially

older adults,
young children
E. coli O157:H7,

Raw or undercooked
molluscan shellfish:

raw clams or oysters
on the half shell

Everyone, especially

persons with liver
disease or alcoholism,
Vibrio vulnifius,
Other vibrios,
Hepatitis A

Raw fish:

Sushi, creviche tuna,

Everyone, especially

older adults
Vibrio parahaemolyticus

To learn more about foodborne illness and ways to prevent it, talk to your health care professional, your local health department or the Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Food, Drugs and Dairies.

525 W. Jefferson St., Springfield, IL 62761