Safe food storage
Eating a nutritious and balanced diet with plenty of variety is one of the best ways to protect your health. While the food we eat in Canada is among the safest in the world, some raw foods and their juices can be contaminated by bacteria, viruses and parasites (foodborne pathogens) which can make you sick. Every year, thousands of Canadians get food poisoning. Storing your food properly is one of the key things you can do to protect yourself and your family from foodborne illness.
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Some people can get foodborne illness, also known as "food poisoning", and not even know they have it. Food poisoning is caused by eating foods that are contaminated.
Symptoms can include:
- stomach cramps
- persistent fever
These symptoms can start suddenly, several hours or even days after you eat contaminated food. Most people recover completely from foodborne illness, but on rare occasions some people may suffer more serious effects. The groups at higher risk for serious health effects include pregnant women, children under the age of 5, adults over the age of 60, and people with weakened immune systems. You should see a health care professional and contact your local public health unit as soon as possible if you think you have a foodborne illness.
Storing food properly is an important part of protecting yourself and your family from food poisoning.
You can't tell if food is unsafe by its smell or taste. When in doubt, throw it out!
- Buy cold or frozen food at the end of your shopping trip.
- You can buy and eat foods after the best-before date has passed. Foods that are likely to spoil should be properly stored and they should be eaten as quickly as possible.
- Keep your raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood away from other food in your grocery cart.
- Examine fruits and vegetables carefully and avoid buying items that are bruised or damaged.
- If you use reusable grocery bags or bins, make sure to use a specific bag or bin for meat, poultry or seafood. Label the bag or bin with the type of food it carries.
It is extremely important to keep cold food cold and hot food hot, so that your food never reaches the "temperature danger zone". This is where bacteria can grow quickly and cause food related illness.
- Keep your raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood cold. Refrigerate or freeze them as soon as you get home from the grocery store.
- Refrigerate fresh fruits and vegetables that need refrigeration when you get home. This includes all pre-cut and ready-to-eat produce.
- Make sure your refrigerator is set at 4 °C (40 °F) or lower and your freezer at -18 °C (0 °F) or lower. This will keep your food out of the temperature danger zone between 4 °C (40 °F) to 60 °C (140 °F) where bacteria can grow quickly.
- Keep your raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood separate from other food in the refrigerator at home. Do this by storing them in different containers.
- Place raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood in sealed containers or plastic bags on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator so raw juices won't drip onto other food.
Fridge and freezer storage
The following recommended refrigeration times are for safety, and the freezing times are for quality. If you store properly wrapped food in your freezer the quality may be maintained for longer periods of time.
|Food||Refrigerator at 4 °C (40 °F) or lower||Freezer at - 18 °C (0 °F) or lower|
|Beef||2-4 days||10 - 12 months|
|Pork||2-4 days||8 - 12 months|
|Lamb||2-4 days||8 - 12 months|
|Veal||3-4 days||8 - 12 months|
|Ground meat||1-2 days||2 - 3 months|
|Chicken/Turkey - whole||2-3 days||1 year|
|Chicken/Turkey - pieces||2-3 days||6 months|
|Lean fish - cod, flounder etc.||3-4 days||6 months|
|Fatty fish - salmon etc.||3-4 days||2 months|
|Shellfish - clams, crab, lobster etc.||12-24 hours||2-4 months|
|Scallops, shrimp, cooked shellfish||1-2 days||2-4 months|
|Canned ham||6-9 months||Don't freeze|
|Cooked ham||3-4 days||2-3 months|
|Bacon and sausages|
|Bacon||1 week||1 month|
|Raw sausage||1-2 days||1-2 months|
|Pre-cooked sausage links or patties||1 week||1-2 months|
|Un-opened hotdogs||2 weeks||1-2 months|
|Opened hotdogs||1 week||1-2 months|
|Lunch meat and deli food|
|Un-opened lunch meat||2 weeks||1-2 months|
|Opened lunch meat||3-5 days||1-2 months|
|Deli packaged lunch meat||3-4 days||2-3 months|
|Deli or homemade salads||3-5 days||Don't freeze|
|Cooked meat, stews, egg or vegetable dishes||3-4 days||2-3 months|
|Cooked poultry and fish||3-4 days||4-6 months|
|Meat broth and gravy||3-4 days||4-6 months|
|Soups||2-3 days||4 months|
|Keep frozen until ready to cook||3-4 months|
|Fresh in shell||3-4 weeks||Don't freeze|
|Fresh out of shell||2-4 days||4 months|
|Hard-cooked||1 week||Doesn't freeze well|
|Egg substitutes un-opened||10 days||1 year|
|Egg substitutes opened||3 days||Don't freeze|
|Un-opened milk||Best before date||6 weeks|
|Opened milk||3 days||Don't freeze|
|Un-opened cottage cheese||Best before date||Doesn't freeze well|
|Opened cottage cheese||3 days||Don't freeze|
|Un-opened yogurt||Best before date||1-2 months|
|Opened yogurt||3 days||Don't freeze|
|Soft cheese||1 week||Doesn't freeze well|
|Semi-soft cheese||2-3 weeks||8 weeks|
|Firm cheese||5 weeks||3 months|
|Hard cheese||10 months||1 year|
|Processed cheese||5 months||3 months|
|Un-opened salted butter||8 weeks||1 year|
|Un-opened unsalted butter||8 weeks||3 months|
|Opened butter||3 weeks||Don't freeze|
|Beans green or waxed||5 days||8 months|
|Carrots||2 weeks||10-12 months|
|Celery||2 weeks||10-12 months|
|Leaf lettuce||3-7 days||Don't freeze|
|Iceberg lettuce||1-2 weeks||Don't freeze|
|Spinach||2-4 weeks||10-12 months|
|Summer squash||1 week||10-12 months|
|Winter squash||2 weeks||10-12 months|
|Tomatoes||Don't refrigerate||2 months|
Cleaning your hands, kitchen surfaces and utensils, fruit and vegetables and reusable grocery bags will help eliminate bacteria and reduce the risk of food related illness.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use one cutting board for produce, and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
- Use paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces, or change dishcloths daily to avoid the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria and avoid using sponges, as they are harder to keep bacteria-free.
- Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils before and after preparing food. Use a kitchen sanitizer (following the directions on the container) or a bleach solution (5 ml household bleach to 750 ml of water), and rinse with water.
How the Government of Canada protects you
The Government of Canada is committed to food safety. Health Canada establishes regulations and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of foods sold in Canada. Through inspection and enforcement activities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada's requirements.
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