At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. Refrigerating or freezing food doesn’t kill bacteria, though it prevents most types from multiplying.

Keep cold food cold and hot food hot to prevent your food from reaching the "temperature danger zone” (between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F). In this danger zone, bacteria can grow quickly and cause foodborne illness.

In the store

Best-before dates

In the kitchen

Storing food

Storing leftovers

Defrosting frozen foods

Safe bagged lunches

Bagged lunches are a great way to encourage healthy eating habits and save money. But when you’re packing a lunch or a picnic, remember—food safety comes first!

Many nutritious lunch foods can become unsafe to eat if they aren’t stored at the right temperature. Deli sandwiches, dairy-based dips, dressings, cheese snacks, yogurts, and milk products should all be kept cool, to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

Storing canned food

Type of Food Food to Avoid Safer Alternative
Hot dogs Hot dogs straight from the package without further heating. Cook hot dogs thoroughly to a safe internal temperature. The middle of the hot dog should be steaming hot or 74° C.
Tip: To help prevent foodborne illness, keep fluid from hot dog packages away from other food, cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and food preparation surfaces. Wash your hands after handling raw hot dogs.
Deli meats Non-dried deli meats like bologna, roast beef and turkey breast. Eat dried and salted deli meats like salami and pepperoni. Thoroughly heat non-dried deli meats to steaming hot.
Eggs and egg products Raw or lightly cooked eggs or egg products, including salad dressings, cookie dough or cake batter, sauces and drinks such as homemade eggnog. Thoroughly cook baked egg dishes to a safe internal temperature of 71° C. Cook eggs until the yolk is firm.
Homemade eggnog must be heated to 71° C.
Tip: Substitute pasteurized egg products in uncooked dishes that call for raw eggs.
Meat and poultry Raw or undercooked meat or poultry, like steak tartare. Cook meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature.
Tip: Use a digital food thermometer to check the internal temperature when cooking meat.
Seafood Raw seafood, including sushi and sashimi.
Raw oysters, clams and mussels.
Refrigerated smoked seafood.
Cook seafood to a safe internal temperature of 74° C.
Cook shellfish until the shell opens.
Use canned smoked seafood that doesn’t require refrigeration until after opening.
Tip: Smoked seafood is safe when it’s fully cooked to a safe internal temperature—for example, in a casserole.
Dairy products Raw or unpasteurized dairy products, including soft and semi-soft cheese, such as Brie, Camembert and blue-veined cheeses. Eat pasteurized dairy products, including hard cheeses like Colby, Cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan.
Sprouts Raw sprouts such as alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean. Cook sprouts thoroughly.
Pates and meat spreads Refrigerated pates and meat spreads. Use pates and meat spreads sold in cans, or that don’t require refrigeration until after opening.
Fruit juice and cider Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider. Use pasteurized products, or bring unpasteurized fruit juice and cider to a rolling boil and cool before drinking.

Food Safety For Higher Risk Canadians is brought to you by the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) supported through an unrestricted educational grant from Maple Leaf Foods Inc.