More than 4 million Canadians get food poisoning per year, experiencing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever. Most people quickly recover and move on with their lives, but an unlucky few each year experience complications that are much more serious, sometimes even fatal [1]. The kitchen can be a pretty scary place for those who are new to cooking, and the fear of making something taste edible mixed with the fear of making something that’s not deadly might be a tricky balance. Here are some tips that will help you stay safe for all of you master chefs in-training [1]:

  • Clean. If there was only one step I hope you follow in this article to prevent food poisoning, it would be to wash your hands. Germs can easily spread through hand contact, and just because you don’t think you’ve touched anything gross doesn’t mean there aren’t any dangerous bacteria on your hands. Rinsing your hands under cold running water doesn’t count either: to wash your hands thoroughly, scrub with soapy warm water for 20 seconds before and after preparing food. Don’t forget those difficult to reach places!
  • Separate. Making a delicious chicken stir-fry? Make sure to separate raw meat from ready-to-eat foods like vegetables. This includes using a separate cutting board and washing your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat.
  • Cook. Ever heard of the saying that a food thermometer is your best friend? Well using one can definitely help prevent your food coming out the wrong way. Cook your food (especially meat and poultry) to a safe temperature. Here are the temperature guidelines for some common types of food [2]: 
    • Beef, veal, lamb: 145°F
    • Ground beef, pork, veal, lamb: 160°F
    • Poultry: 165°F
    • Pork, ham: 145°F
    • Fish: 145°F or until flesh is opaque and easily separates with a fork
    • Leftovers: 165°F
  • Chill. If you’re not a fan of heading to the grocery store, freezing is definitely a great way of making food last, but thawing food can be tricky sometimes as it is an easy way of making people sick if done improperly. For example, never thaw your frozen food at room temperature, as food is easily forgotten and bacteria can grow quickly. There are three safe ways to thaw frozen food [3]:

1. In the fridge – use only if the food is going to be used within three days of being thawed

2. In the microwave – use only if the food is being cooked immediately

3. In cold water – use only if the water is changed every 45 minutes  

  • Keep it out of the danger zone! Bacteria multiply the fastest between 4˚C (40˚F) to 60˚C (140˚F). Keeping food out of this range if one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Chill prepared food within 2 hours, and make sure that your refrigerator is kept at 4˚C or below.

These tips won’t necessarily make you the next Iron Chef, but they will definitely help prevent you from getting food poisoning! For more food safety tips, visit:

Good luck, stay safe, and happy cooking!

Jane Skapinker

Registered Dietitian


  1. Food safety and you. (2014, January 24). Retrieved July 27, 2015, from
  2. Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures. (2015, July 27). Retrieved July 27, 2015, from
  3. Freezing 101. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2015, from

Monday, November 20, 2017 in
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