Food Safety

To keep food fresh and safe to eat, it is important to store, cook and serve it properly and take safety precautions. Eating contaminated food can cause illness, even death, especially for older adults and small children. To reduce the risk of food poisoning, follow these food safety tips.

Storing Food

Generally, the best rule for storing food is – where you found it in the grocery store is where you should store it at home. For example, if you buy something in the frozen food section of the grocery store – this food should be stored in your freezer. Some foods found on the shelves have to be refrigerated after opening.

Refrigerating and Freezing

Some tips on safely refrigerating and freezing food items:

  • Do not store perishable foods, like eggs, in the refrigerator doors.
  • Store uncooked meat, poultry, and fish with a plate underneath on a bottom shelf, or in a meat drawer in the refrigerator. This will prevent meat juices from getting on other foods.
  • After serving, refrigerate, or freeze leftover foods promptly. Store leftover food in tight, shallow containers with an inch of airspace.
  • Always label and date food containers. It is easy to forget how long something has been in the refrigerator or freezer!

Here Are Some Suggestions on How Long You Should Refrigerate or Freeze Certain Foods:

Food ProductRefrigerator
(4°C or 40°F)
(-18°C or 0°F)
Eggs 4 – 5 weeksdo not freeze
Milk 1 week3 months
Chicken1 – 2 days9 months
Beef 3 – 5 days6 – 12 months
Fish1 – 2 days2 – 4 weeks
Leftovers3 – 4 days3 – 4 months
Frozen Meals Do not refrigerate3 months

Checking Food for Safety

Tips for canned food products:

  • Use cans within one year of the time you bought them or before the ‘best before date’.
  • Make sure there are no bulges, dents, rust, or leaks in the can.
  • If the content of the can looks bubbly or mouldy, smell sour, or taste bitter – do not eat it.

Some tips for checking packaged food products for safety:

  • Check for rips and tears in packages.
  • If a package is vacuum packed or sealed. There should be no air in the package when you squeeze it. If there is, do not buy/use it.

Preparing and Cooking Food

Here are some tips to help you with food preparation and cooking safety:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before preparing food.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by using clean utensils, dishes, cutting boards, etc. for each food item.
  • Wash all fruit and vegetables before eating it, including those with rinds that are not edible. Do not use bleach or soap, as these products may leach into food.
  • Never thaw food on kitchen counters or at room temperature. Foods can be thawed in the refrigerator or in the microwave and then prepared to cook.
  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator only, not at room temperature on the counter. Never reuse marinades, breading, or coatings.
  • Avoid tasting meat, poultry, eggs, fish, or shellfish when they are raw or only partially cooked.
  • Use a clean spoon each time you taste your food.
  • Always cook foods to the proper temperature so that harmful bacteria are destroyed.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods have been cooked thoroughly.
  • Avoid storing food under the sink, where it is damp.
  • Avoid storing food above the stove, because high temperatures can cause food to spoil.
  • ‘When in doubt, throw it out.’ Do not try to determine safety by tasting the food as this can be dangerous.
  • If food is obviously spoiled, mouldy, or past the ‘best before’ date, throw it out in your green compost bin and recycle the packaging when applicable.

Related Resources

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