September 2005 Edition
Healthwise Food Safety 101

Food Safety 101


Bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli grow best in hot, humid conditions.  To help avoid foodborne illnesses caused by these bacteria, ensure that you are buying only products that are in excellent condition and always cook food to the proper temperature.



Guidelines for Purchasing and Receiving Safe Products   






Bright red meat  (beef)

Light red meat (lamb)

Firm texture

Fat is white

Brown or green meat

Discoloured spots

Slick, sticky or dry on the exterior


No discolouration

Firm texture

Unusual odour

Discolouration around the neck

Body feels sticky


Eyes are open and clear

No strong fishy odour

Firm texture

Packaged in ice

Fishy odour

Discoloured and/or soft flesh, when fingerprint is pressed on flesh, the fingerprint will stay

Red and/ or sunken eyes


No strong fishy odour

Closed shells

Tags on, and keep tags for 90 days

Partly open shells that do not close when tapped, this means they are dead

No tag


No strong odour

Hard shell

Strong odour

Soft shell


Unbroken shell

Crack in shell, or dirt on shell


Tips to Ensure that your Food is Stored and Cooked Safely

Meat and fish must be stored at a proper temperature to avoid contamination and to keep the product fresh.  If the product comes in fresh then it should be refrigerated at a temperature of 4°C or lower.  For products that arrive already frozen they should be stored at a temperature of -18°C or lower. Eggs must be refrigerated and should never be left for a long period of time at room temperature.  It is important to remember that food that is contaminated by bacteria must be disposed of and not just stored at a lower temperature as this will only slow the growth, it will not kill the bacteria. 

To avoid foodborne illnesses food must be cooked to a certain temperature. It is crucial that meat, poultry, fish and eggs be cooked to a certain temperature to kill any bacteria that may have affected the product.  Pork, lamb and beef should be cooked until they reach an internal temperature of 70°C and must be held at this temperature for at least 15 seconds.  Poultry should be cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 85°C and held there for at least 15 seconds.  Fish has to be heated to an internal temperature of 70°C and eggs must be heated to an internal temperature of 63°C and remain at this temperature for at least 15 seconds. 

Prepackaged food is not resistant to bacteria; contamination is possible.  When purchasing packaged food it is important to look for signs of contamination.  For dry goods there should be no sign of insects or moisture, if so, they should be disposed of.  Canned goods should always have their labels on and they should be legible, there should be no signs of rusting, swelling or leaking.  Fruits and vegetables should not have any signs of mold or insects, and should not have any bruising.  Fruits and vegetables should always be washed thoroughly before serving.   

Reference:  Basics.fst.  Food Safety Training in Canada

By Kathleen Murdoch and Suzanne Berryman R.D.

Sysco Food Services of AtlanticCanada