Food Safety

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Help eliminate harmful bacteria by following these four simple steps.

1) Clean It

Wash hands and surfaces often

  • Thoroughly wash hands, utensils, cutting boards and work surfaces with hot, soapy water before, during and after handling raw meat or poultry.
  • Dishcloths should be rinsed immediately with hot, soapy water frequently.
  • Sanitize cutting boards with mild bleach & water solutions.
  • Always wash plates and utensils used for raw meat or poultry before using them for cooked meat or other foods.
  • Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before using.

2) Separate It

Dont cross-contaminate

  • Keep raw meats, poultry and seafood on a platter and separate from cooked meats or cold cuts in the refrigerator. Use clean platters to carry food from the barbecue as raw meat juices left behind can transfer bacteria back to properly cooked meats.
  • Prevent cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards for meats, poultry, seafood, fruits and vegetables, and breads.
  • It is NOT necessary to rinse poultry before preparing it.
  • To use homemade or bottled marinade to baste meat or poultry during cooking (or to serve as a sauce), save 1/4 cup (50 mL) before marinating.
  • Marinate food in refrigerator; throw out leftover marinade.
  • Put store-wrapped meat, poultry and seafood into the meat compartment or in covered containers on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so they can't drip onto other foods.

3) Cook It

Cook to proper temperatures

  • Take meat and poultry directly from the refrigerator to the barbecue or oven. Stuff poultry just before cooking.
  • No time to defrost? Steaks and roasts may be cooked from frozen. Simply add 50% to the cooking time.
  • Cook meat & poultry until "done"; partial cooking may encourage bacterial growth. Oven temperatures should be no lower than 250F (121C) for meats and 325F (160C) for poultry.
  • The best way to judge doneness is to use a meat thermometer. Put into the centre of roasts or poultry stuffing, or into the thickest part of the thigh in unstuffed birds. Stuffing should reach 165F (74C) before serving. Rolled stuffed steaks and roasts should be cooked to well done.
  • Meat thermometers work on casseroles too.

Doneness Chart

Meat/Poultry Doneness Temperature
Beef Roast/Steaks Medium Rare 145 F (63 C)
Medium 160 F (70 C)
  Well 170 F (75 C)
Whole Chickens Stuffed 180-185 F (82-85 C)
Chicken Pieces Stuffed 180-185 F (82-85 C)
Whole Turkey Stuffed 180 F (82 C)
  Unstuffed 170 F (77 C)
Turkey Pieces Stuffed 170 F (77 C)
Ham, fully cooked, cold or ready-to-eat   140 F (60 C)
Pork Cottage Roll/Smoked Picnic Shoulder Stuffed 160 F (70 C)
Fish Stuffed 160 F (70 C)
  • Ground meats/poultry must always be cooked to well done 160F (70C) or until centres are no longer pink and juices show no pink colour. Bacteria that may be on the surface of the raw meat or poultry can be mixed throughout the meat during grinding.
  • Any bacteria that may be on the meat exist only on the surface and are killed by the high temperatures reached during cooking.
  • When microwave reheating, heat only enough for that meal. Food should be heated to at least 165F (74C). Reheating and cooling can result in food sitting at temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.

NOTE: Adding bacon or other hickory smoked products or seasonings to burger mixtures may make the ground meat stay pink even when it is fully cooked.

4) Chill It

In the refrigerator

Storage Chart

Meat/poultry Refrigerator* Freezer
Ground Meats/Poultry 1 day 2-3 months
Variety Meats (e.g. liver, kidney, heart) 1-2 days 3-4 months
Stewing Meat, Short Ribs, Stir-fry Strips, Kabobs 2 days 3-6 months
Whole Chicken/Turkey 2-3 days 12 months
Chicken/Turkey Pieces 2-3 days 6 months
Steaks 3 days 6-9 months
Roasts 3 days 9-12 months
Cooked Meats/Poultry, Cold Cuts 3-4 days 2-3 months
Fish 1-2 day 2-3 months

*Number of days from the "packaged on," or the purchase date if you buy from a full service meat counter.

NOTE: Once vacuum packs are opened, the meat should be used within the number of days recommended in the Storage Chart, even though the "best before" date may be later.

In the freezer

  • Immediately freeze any meat or poultry that you don't plan to use within 1-3 days (see Storage Chart). This is especially important for ground meats/poultry. Do not freeze "previously frozen" or "contains previously frozen meats or poultry." Refrigerate and cook within 1-3 days (as specified in Storage Chart) OR cook before freezing.
  • Dried out white patches or "freezer burn" is caused by poor packaging and/or leaving foods in the freezer too long. They are safe to eat, but they may be less juicy and tender.
  • To prevent "freezer burn," wrap the package in plastic freezer bags or heavy-duty aluminium foil. Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing.

NOTE: Life Begins At 40 (Degrees Fahrenheit). Keep Meat, Poultry Or Seafood Either Below 40F (4C) Or Above 140F (60C).

When shopping

  • Choose packages of meat and poultry that are cold and tightly wrapped, without tears, and check the "packaged on" date or "best before" date for freshness.
  • Pick up meat, poultry, seafood and frozen foods last.

When defrosting

NOTE: Never Defrost Meat, Poultry or Seafood At Room Temperature. The safest way to thaw meat, poultry or seafood is in the refrigerator, allowing 6-9 hours/lb. (14-20 hours/kg).

  • Thawing at room temperature allows bacteria to grow on the surface of the meat, even while the inside remains frozen.
  • Meat, poultry or seafood defrosted in the microwave should be cooked immediately. Remove the outside portions as they thaw, keeping the outside from starting to cook before the inside thaws.
  • Thawed ground meats/poultry should NEVER be refrozen. If partially or completely defrosted but still cold, cook first and then freeze if necessary.
  • If meat cuts and poultry are still full of ice crystals, they can be safely refrozen.
  • If the meat, poultry or seafood is no longer cold, it must be discarded. This is especially important for ground meat/poultry products.

When storing leftovers

  • Remove poultry meat from the bones and take the stuffing out of the cavity. Refrigerate cooked meat, poultry or seafood stuffing leftovers within 2 hours after serving.
  • Although cooking destroys bacteria, new bacteria in the air and on surfaces can recontaminate the food. These multiply quickly at room temperature.
  • Divide large quantities of food into smaller portions or spread out in shallow containers to chill more quickly.


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