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Food safety

Food safety


Following Canada’s Food Guide and being informed about the nutrients in your foods will help you to provide a healthy diet for your family. Following some simple food safety tips is also important.

Washing hands

Washing your hands is the crucial first step in keeping food safe. Doing this properly, for 20 seconds, removes almost half of all causes of foodborne illness.

Always wash hands:

  • before and after touching raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood
  • after using the washroom
  • after handling pets
  • after sneezing.

Chilling food

Keep food chilled at 4 °C (40 °F) or lower. Cold temperatures prevent most harmful bacteria from growing and reduce the risk of food poisoning.

There are two key tips for keeping your food chilled.

  • Follow the two-hour rule.
  • Store meats at the right temperature for the right amount of time.

Two-hour rule

Under the “two-hour rule”, you should refrigerate or freeze all perishables (fresh food that can go bad) within two hours of buying or preparing them. If the weather is hot (warmer than 26 °C), chill or freeze the food within one hour. When you go grocery shopping, buy cold and frozen food last.

Storing meat

It is essential to chill meats promptly. The table below shows how long you can safely store different types of meat.

Note: Count the days listed in this table from the date the meat was ‘packaged on’ (as shown on the label) or the date it was bought if it is from a butcher.

Food Fridge Freezer
Ground meats, poultry, or seafood 1 day 2-3 months
Variety meats (such as liver, kidney, heart) 1-2 days 3-4 months
Stew meat, ribs, stir-fry strips, kabobs 2 days 3-6 months
Chicken or turkey (whole or pieces) 2-3 days Whole – 12 months
Pieces – 6 months
Steaks, roasts, chops 3 days 8-12 months
Cooked meats or poultry, cold cuts (open package) 3-4 days 2-3 months
Vacuum packed roasts or steaks (unopened) See package date 10–12 months

You can get many more tips from our article Food poisoning: protecting your family.

Original author:
Theresa Couto, RD
Reviewed by:
Elly Berger, BA, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, MHPE
Francy Pillo-Blocka RD, FDC


Health Canada (2013). Food Safety for People with Weakened Immune Systems​. Ottawa: Government of Canada.