Food Safety: It’s boring but it’s important

Food-borne illness (food poisoning) is extremely unpleasant and, in the worst case scenario, results in over 11,500 hospitalizations and 240 deaths occur each year in Canada.

Even though the information about food safety tends to be a little dry you should take some time to consider good food safe practices if you:

  • Own or work at a business; foodborne illness results in valuable time off work for you, your employees or the employee’s job you now have to cover

  • Pay taxes; it is estimated that acute foodborne illness costs Canadian nearly $1.1 billion dollars annually.

  • Have vulnerable individual in your household; children under five, adults over sixty, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are at particular risks for the devastating effects of foodborne illness.


  • You don’t think the idea of hugging your toilet bowl and praying for mercy sounds like a great way to spend your weekend.

Canada has very high safety standards; the food we eat in Canada is among the safest in the world. However, things can still go wrong. Food can become contaminated by bacteria, viruses and parasites as it makes its way into your food. Therefore the most important line of defence is in your own home. This is the area that needs to the most improvement as the vast majority of of foodborne illness occur at the household level.

Simple steps you can take to improve food safety in your home:

  • Clean your kitchen instruments including can openers, cloths/sponges, and thermometers. These are common, often overlooked, culprits of food illness.

  • Switch your utensils and cutting boards from raw meat to cooked meat. In my household we find the easiest way to do this is the buy two. We have two sets of tongs, one for raw and one for cooked. Same goes for flippers, wooden spoons… you get the idea. You can obiviously wash the utensil part way but if you find this inconvenient simply invest the few extra dollars to pick up an extra set and keep a clean one handy.

  • Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils before and after preparing food.

  • Store foods at the correct temperature and don’t keep leftovers longer than three days. The “danger zone” is a catchy description for the temperature range in which bacteria will grow and multiply at the fastest rate. This range is 4 °C and 60 °C (40 °F to 140 °F). High risk foods (like meat, dairy…) should have limited exposure to this temperature range. If a food is left for longer than 2 hours in the danger zone, toss it.

  • Be careful of cross contamination. It is a good idea to keep meat in bottom drawer of your fridge and away from fresh produce in your grocery cart.

  • Wash your reusable grocery bags frequently.

A final note:

  • Support businesses that produce food in a safe manner at a regulated facility. It is a wonderful thing to support local food business. However we need to be mindful that we are supporting business that are contributing to the local food movement in a safe and healthy way. Any food that isn’t "low risk" (see more information here: needs to be produced in a facility that is approved by your local Public Health Inspector and you should always ask to see a certificate verifying that your food handler has taken a certified Food Safety course.



Caitlin OlausonComment