Safe Food Handling
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The best way to prevent food poisoning!

It is estimated that 11 to 13 million cases of food borne illness occur each year in Canada.


Food borne illness, also known as “food poisoning”, happens when a person eats food that has been contaminated with a bacteria, parasite or virus and becomes sick from the harmful micro-organism. The most common symptoms include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, and in extreme cases, can lead to death. Safe food handling is the surest way to stop cross contamination and prevent food poisoning. Follow these food handling and preparation tips to protect yourself, your family, and your friends from foodborne illnesses.



Washing your hands, cooking surfaces, food equipment, and utensils is essential to safe food handling. Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food, and after handling raw meat or poultry, using the bathroom, touching pets, handling garbage, or changing diapers.

Plus, make sure to wash all utensils, dinnerware, countertops and cutting boards before and after use with clean water and soap. A disinfectant cleaner or a beach and water mixture can provide even more protection against bacteria. It’s also important that you don’t reuse platters or utensils for serving that held raw meat, poultry or seafood. If you don’t have access to water and soap, use cleansing wipes or sanitizing gel to stop the spread of bacteria.

Clean your food by rinsing fruits and vegetables under clean water, rubbing or using a scrub for firm-skinned ones. It’s also important to cut away any damaged or bruised areas on produce as bacteria loves to grow in these places.

Dry everything with a clean cloth towel, paper towel or air dry to a avoid cross-contamination.



To prevent juices from raw meat, poultry, or seafood from dropping onto fresh produce, make sure to separate them in your grocery cart when shopping, as well as in your refrigerator. Place raw foods in sealed containers or plastics bags and put them on the bottom shelf.

Being a smart packer can help you avoid cross-contamination of harmful bacteria between foods. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from fresh, cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Either have separate coolers, or place the raw foods on the bottom, tightly wrapped to prevent raw juices from dropping onto other foods. Containers with a tight-seal or re-sealable plastic bags are helpful for preventing leaks.

It’s also a good idea to have separate coolers for perishable foods and beverages since going in and out of the cooler for a beverage will let cold air escape and interfere with keeping the food cold. To keep food as cold as possible, keep the cooler with food in it closed until you’re ready to cook or eat.



Don’t use your eyes to determine if food is cooked. Make sure food is cooked thoroughly by using a food thermometer. Safe minimum internal temperatures are:

Food Type

Internal Temperature

Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures


Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb

71°C (160°F)

Turkey, Chicken

74°C (165°F)

Fresh Beef, Veal & Lamb


Medium Rare

63°C (145°F)


71°C (160°F)

Well Done

77°C (170°F)



Chicken & Turkey, whole

85°C (185°F)

Poultry parts

74°C (165°F)

Duck & Goose

74°C (165°F)

Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird)

74°C (165°F)

Fresh Pork



71°C (160°F)



Fresh (raw)

71°C (160°F)

Precooked (to reheat)

74°C (165°F)

Egg & Egg Dishes


Egg dishes & casseroles

74°C (165°F)



Fin Fish

70°C (158°F)

For one minute. Flesh is opaque

Shrimp, Lobster & Crabs

74°C (165°F)

Flesh is pearly and opaque

Clams, Oysters & Mussels

Shells open during cooking


Milky white or opaque and firm

Leftovers & Casseroles

74°C (165°F)



Keeping cold foods cold is imperative to preventing the growth of harmful bacteria; cold foods should be kept at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or lower. Make sure to keep all perishable foods chilled right up until you are ready to serve them, or if packing foods to go, keep them frozen or in the fridge until are just about to leave.

A good rule to remember is to refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods or leftovers within 2 hours of taking out of the fridge or freezer, or 1 hour if the outdoor temperature if above 90°F.

It’s also important to never defrost or marinate food at room temperature. Always thaw or marinate food in the refrigerator where they can stay cool. It’s also safe to defrost frozen food in cold water or in the microwave if you will be cooking it immediately.

When storing food for on the go, you should always use a cooler filled with ice or cold packs.


Always remember: when in doubt, throw it out!!



Sources: Health Canada, U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Mayo Clinic

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