A lot of food poisoning happens at home. It can happen when you eat food that's contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals.
Bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning. You can't see, smell or taste them, but they exist naturally in the environment and in certain raw foods, such as meat (including poultry), seafood and eggs. Bacteria can spread to and grow in almost any type of food.
Four steps to food safety at home
To keep your food safe from harmful bacteria and to protect yourself from food poisoning, follow these four steps:
Bacteria can survive on almost anything. Your hands pick up bacteria from the things they touch throughout the day, especially when you cough or sneeze, use the washroom, handle dirty dishes or handle garbage. Bacteria can also get on your hands and in your kitchen from touching raw meat, raw seafood and raw eggs.
Clean often to remove bacteria, so it doesn't make its way into the food you eat. Cleaning is the most important step to protecting yourself from food poisoning.
Your hands: Wash your hands regularly. Especially before handling food and right after you touch raw meat, seafood or eggs. Use hot water and soap, and rub together for 20 seconds. Rinse off all soap with clean water.
Your utensils and surfaces: Clean utensils, cutting boards and countertops after preparing a food item and before moving on to the next food item. Use hot, soapy water and a clean sponge or cloth, and then rinse well with clean water.
As an extra precaution, use a disinfectant. Mix 1 tsp (5 mL) unscented chlorine bleach and 3 cups (750 mL) water. Soak utensils and surfaces for 10 minutes in the solution and then rinse them well.
Vegetables and fruit: Rinse vegetables and fruit under running water (without soap) before you eat them, even if you are going to cut or peel them. Scrub firm fruits and vegetables, like oranges and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
Never wash raw meat or seafood because it could spread bacteria if the water splashes. Follow the HEAT step to kill bacteria that naturally exist in raw meat and seafood.
Even when you keep everything clean, bacteria can spread when raw meat, seafood or eggs touch or drip on other foods. Prevent this by separating them.
Shopping: Keep raw meat and seafood away from other food in your shopping basket, and put them in separate bags at the check-out counter. Wash your reusable shopping bags regularly.
Preparing food: Use one cutting board or bowl for raw meat, seafood and eggs, and a different one for any other foods. If you only have one cutting board or bowl, follow the Clean step above.
Storing food: Cover food and keep it in separate areas of your refrigerator:
- Put raw and thawing meat and seafood in a container on bottom shelves, so it can't drip on other food
- Keep ready-to-eat foods on top shelves
- Place leftover cooked foods on middle shelves
to enlarge or print the "Storing Food Safely" flyer to keep in your kitchen.
Bacteria grow quickly in your food if you let it sit at temperatures between 4°C and 60°C. Certain foods allow bacteria to grow very easily, including meat, seafood, eggs, milk and milk products.
Heat your food thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria. You can't tell if your food is hot enough simply by looking at it. Insert an internal probe thermometer into the middle of the food or the thickest part of the meat to measure the internal temperature of the food.
Cooking: Heat all foods to internal temperatures in the Safe Temperature Chart below. Use your internal probe thermometer to be sure the food gets hot enough on the inside.
Cook eggs until both the white and the yolk are firm. If you are cooking with a recipe that calls for raw eggs, use eggs or egg products that say “pasteurized” on the label.
Microwaving: Cover, stir and rotate your food to make sure it heats evenly. Use your internal probe thermometer and the Safe Temperature Chart to be sure the food gets hot enough.
Serving food: Keep cooked food at 60°C or higher until you are ready to serve. You can do this by keeping it on the stove, in the oven or on a warming tray.
|Poultry (e.g., chicken, turkey, duck)
|Ground poultry|| 74°C
|Beef, Goat, Lamb|
|Whole cuts|| 60°C
|Ground beef, goat, lamb|| 71°C
|Whole cuts|| 71°C
|Ground pork|| 71°C
|Food mixtures (with meat, fish, or eggs)
Bacteria grow quickly in your food if you let it sit at temperatures between 4°C and 60°C.
Keep your food chilled in a refrigerator below 4°C or in a freezer below -18° C to slow the growth of bacteria.
Storing groceries: Refrigerate or freeze raw meat, raw seafood, raw eggs and other perishables as soon as you bring them home from the store, farm or market.
Thawing/Defrosting: If you choose to defrost food before cooking, allow time to defrost it safely; it is never safe to leave it at room temperature. The safest way to defrost food is to keep it refrigerated. Put it in a container on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
Defrosting food in the microwave or under cold water may be faster, but you must cook it immediately.
Preparing food: Always keep food in the refrigerator while it is marinating. It is never safe to leave it on the counter to marinate.
Storing leftovers: Divide leftovers into smaller containers to cool it down quickly after cooking. Refrigerate or freeze within two hours of cooking.