Oxford County Public Health is committed to providing you with the tools and education to help keep you and your family healthy. This page includes important tips that you can use at home to help keep you safe from foodborne illness.
What is foodborne illness?
Foodborne illness, often called "food poisoning," occurs when a person gets sick from eating food that has been contaminated with bacteria, parasites or viruses, also known as 'microbes' and 'pathogens.' Foodborne illness is the largest class of emerging infectious diseases.
Although often mistaken as a viral illness, like the 24-hour flu, Health Canada estimates that there are 2 million cases of foodborne illnesses in Canada each year.
Most cases of foodborne illness occur as a result of improper food handling and preparation by the consumer.
For more information on what causes foodborne illnesses, click here.
Foodborne illness for those at higher risk
What can you do to prevent getting sick?
Reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses by following these smart food safety practices:
- Clean – thoroughly wash your hands and cooking surfaces
Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after handling meat, poultry, eggs and seafood and after changing diapers, touching pets and using the washroom.
Clean and then sanitize counter tops, cutting boards and utensils with a mild bleach solution (5ml/1 tsp. bleach per 750ml/3 cups water) before and after food preparation.
Discard worn cutting boards. Consider using paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces or change dishcloths daily to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria. Avoid using sponges because they are harder to keep bacteria-free, or wash them frequently in hot, soapy water.
- Separate – avoid cross contamination
Did you know that improper handling of raw meat, poultry and seafood can create an inviting environment for cross-contamination? As a result, bacteria can spread to other foods and throughout the kitchen. Clean and then sanitize counter tops, cutting boards and utensils with a mild bleach solution (5ml/1 tsp. bleach per 750ml/3 cups water) before and after food preparation. Consider using paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces or change dishcloths daily to avoid spreading bacteria and, possibly, cross-contamination. Avoid using sponges because they are harder to keep bacteria-free, or wash them frequently in hot, soapy water.
If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and use a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
Food safety starts when you shop: separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, when bagging your groceries and in your refrigerator.
Seal raw meat, poultry and seafood in air-tight containers or plastic bags and place them on the bottom shelves of your refrigerator to prevent juices from dripping onto other food.
- Chill – when in doubt - throw it out
Use the “two-hour rule” whether you’re shopping, cooking or serving. Refrigerate or freeze food within two hours of preparing it or buying it. If food has been left out for two hours or more, throw it out. On a hot day, foods like meat and dairy products may only last an hour without refrigeration.
Don't over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air needs to circulate above and beneath food to keep it safe.
- Cook – take the guess work out of cooking
One of the most important tools you can keep in your kitchen is a good quality thermometer.
Knowing the internal temperature of your meat is the only way to know you’ve destroyed harmful bacteria.
Cooking times vary for meats, poultry and fish. After cooking, keep foods out of the "danger zone" (4°C to 60°C or 40°F to 140°F) by preparing them quickly and serving them immediately.
When cooking in a microwave oven, make sure the food is cooked thoroughly. For best results, cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking and follow suggested standing times.
Food temperature guide
Not sure what temperature your food should be? Download this printable chart printable chart.
Oxford County Public Health is a proud partner of Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education.
For more information on preventing foodborne illnesses and for safe cooking tips, visit: http://www.canfightbac.org/