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Food Safety During the Summer Months

Starting date:
June 18, 2013
Posting date:
June 18, 2013
Type of communication:
Information Update
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Food Safety
General Public
Identification number:


Now that summer is here, Health Canada would like to remind Canadians of steps they can take to protect themselves from foodborne illnesses: clean, separate, cook and chill.

As the temperature rises, so does the risk of foodborne illness. Hot, humid weather creates the perfect conditions for the rapid growth of bacteria. In the summer, more people are cooking outside and may not have easy access to refrigeration and washing facilities.

It is estimated that each year roughly one in eight Canadians (or four million people) get sick with foodborne illness in Canada. Many of these cases could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

What you should do

To minimize the risks of foodborne illness, follow these steps when handling and preparing food.

Step One - Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often to avoid the spread of bacteria.

  • 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 or changing diapers.
  • Always wash raw fruits and vegetables with clean water. You cannot tell whether foods carry surface bacteria by the way they look, smell or taste.

Step Two - Separate: Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.

  • When you pack a cooler for an outing, wrap uncooked meat, poultry, fish and seafood securely and put them on the bottom to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other foods. Ideally, use a separate cooler for the raw foods.
  • Wash all plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touched or held raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood before using them again for other foods.

Step Three - Cook: Make sure you kill harmful bacteria by properly cooking food.

  • Typical visual cues like colour are not a guarantee that food is safe. Dont guess! Use a digital instant-read food thermometer to check when meat, poultry, fish and seafood are safe to eat. Cooked foods are safe to eat when internal temperatures are:
  • 70o C (158o F) for fish
  • 71o C (160o F) for ground meat
  • 74C (165o F) for shellfish, leftover food, and boned and deboned poultry parts
  • 85C (185o F) for whole poultry

Step Four - Chill: Keep cold food cold.

  • Perishable foods that are normally in the refrigerator, such as luncheon meats, cooked meat, chicken, and potato or pasta salads, must be kept in an insulated cooler with freezer packs or blocks of ice to keep the temperature at 4C (40o F).
  • Put leftovers back in the cooler as soon as you are finished eating.
  • On hot summer days, don’t keep food unrefrigerated for more than two hours.
  • Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight and avoid opening it too often.
  • The simple rule is: When in doubt, throw it out!


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For more information

More information on summer food safety please visit: