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Something you ate?
Episode 4: Protecting yourself

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Preventing foodborne illness

Anyone can get sick from contaminated food or water. But some people are more at risk for getting very sick from complications associated with foodborne illness. You are more at risk if you are

  • Younger than 2 years old
  • Older than 65 years old
  • Pregnant (greater risk is linked to certain types of foodborne illness, such as listeriosis)
  • Coping with a weakened immune system; for example, if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, alcoholism or HIV/AIDS, or if you are taking chemotherapy or other drugs that suppress your immune system

Everyone can protect themselves by taking the following precautions, but this is especially important for those at greater risk.

General food safety tips

  • Everyone should practice general food safety precautions at all times:
  • Bacteria can grow in the danger zone between 4 °C and 60 °C (40 °F to 140 °F). Keep cold foods cold at or below 4 °C (40 °F) and keep hot foods hot at or above 60 °C (140 °F).
  • Place raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Use containers that are large enough to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other food or touching other food.
  • Keep raw food away from other food while shopping, storing, preparing and serving foods.
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them, clean counters and cutting boards and wash your hands regularly.
  • Read labels and follow cooking and storage instructions for all foods. Make sure to check the “best before” date, and if you find something on the shelf that has expired, let the store know.
  • Use warm soapy water to clean knives, cutting boards, utensils, your hands and any surfaces that have come in contact with food, especially meat and fish.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of cooking.
  • Freeze or consume leftovers within four days of cooking. Always reheat leftovers until steaming hot before eating.
  • Keep refrigerators clean and at a temperature below 4 °C (40 °F). Install a thermometer in your fridge to be sure.
  • Like many other harmful bacteria that could be in our food, E. coli bacteria are destroyed when food is cooked to a certain internal temperature. Use a digital food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of your food so that you are sure that it is cooked properly. You can’t tell by looking.
  • Cook your food to a safe internal temperature.
Safe internal temperature chart
Food Temperature
Beef, veal and lamb (pieces and whole cuts) —medium-rare 63°C (145°F)
Beef, veal and lamb (pieces and whole cuts) —medium 71°C (160°F)
Beef, veal and lamb (pieces and whole cuts) —well done 77°C (170°F)
Pork (pieces and whole cuts) 71°C (160°F)
Poultry (pieces)—chicken, turkey, duck 74°C (165°F)
Poultry (whole)— chicken, turkey, duck 85°C (185°F)
Ground meat and meat mixtures (burgers, sausages, meatballs, meatloaf, casseroles)—beef, veal, lamb and pork 71°C (160°F)
Ground meat and meat mixtures—poultry 74°C (165°F)
Egg dishes 74°C (165°F)
Others (hot dogs, stuffing and leftovers) 74°C (165°F)

More food safety information

Visit the Government of Canada food safety portalExternal Link to stay on top of food safety.

Health Canada has food safety information aimed at specific groups that are at greater risk for serious illness, including a chart that lists foods to avoid and safer alternatives to those foods.

Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety EducationExternal Link provides information about food safety in the home.

Action on Weatherill Report Recommendations to Strengthen the Food Safety System: Final Report to CanadiansExternal Link describes changes made to the food safety system since 2008.

These links provide more detailed information about the tools we use to help us in our food safety work.