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Holiday Food Safety Tips

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Canadians enjoy celebrating holidays with friends, family--and food. You can stop foodborne illness from spoiling your holiday by following these basic food safety tips:

Before you start

  • Always wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food to avoid the spread of bacteria.
  • Keep all kitchen surfaces, utensils and dishes clean.
  • Keep raw foods separate from cooked and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.

Preparing and serving holiday buffets

  • Prepare food as quickly as possible.
  • Cook food thoroughly to a safe internal temperature and serve it promptly.
  • When you're serving food buffet-style, use warming trays, chafing dishes or crock pots to keep hot foods hot (at least 60C or 140F), and put serving trays on crushed ice to keep cold foods cold (4C or 40F).
  • Throw away any food left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Use a clean platter or serving dish each time you re-stock the buffet. Don't add new food to serving dishes already in use.
  • Provide serving spoons and tongs for every dish served. Even finger foods like cut vegetables, candies, chips, nachos and nuts should have serving tools to prevent contamination between guests.

Travelling with food

  • While travelling, wrap hot food in foil and heavy towels, or carry in insulated containers to maintain a temperature of at least 60C (140F).
  • Store cold foods in a cooler with ice or freezer packs to maintain the temperature at 4C (40F) or below.

Special Holiday Foods

Some of the most popular foods that people like to indulge in during the holidays can be potential food safety risks. To reduce your risk, follow these basic tips:


  • Cook the turkey in the oven until it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 85C (185F).
  • Use a digital food thermometer to ensure the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature. Take the temperature in the thickest part of the breast or thigh meat and make sure the thermometer is not touching any bones.
  • Always wash the food thermometer and other utensils and dishware that were used on raw or partially cooked foods before using them to check foods again.


  • Cook stuffing separately in the oven in its own dish, or on the stove top, to a minimum internal temperature of 74C (165F).
  • If you choose to stuff your turkey, stuff it loosely just before roasting, and remove all stuffing right after cooking.

Homemade eggnog

  • If making eggnog at home, substitute raw eggs with pasteurized egg products, found in most grocery stores.
  • If raw eggs are used then heat the egg-milk mixture to at least 71C (160F), then refrigerate it right away in small, shallow containers to allow it to cool quickly.

Baked goods

  • Uncooked cookie dough, batters or frostings made with raw eggs can contain Salmonella bacteria.
  • Make sure your baked goods are cooked thoroughly.
  • Don't lick the spoon or eat raw cookie dough when baking using raw eggs.

Fruit juice and cider

  • When making punch or serving cider, check the product label to make sure the juice or cider has been pasteurized.
  • If the juice or cider has not been pasteurized, bring it to a rolling boil and then cool before serving.
  • Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider may contain bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli that can cause serious illness, especially in children, seniors and people with weakened immune systems.

Oysters and seafood

  • Keep seafood like raw oysters or cold cooked shrimp rings refrigerated and serve them on ice to ensure they remain cold at holiday buffets.
  • People who are more vulnerable to the risks of foodborne illness, such as older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems, should avoid eating raw or undercooked fish and seafood.


  • Refrigerate all leftovers promptly in uncovered, shallow containers so they cool quickly. Refrigerate once steaming stops and leave the lid off or wrap loosely until the food is cooled to refrigerator temperature.
  • Store turkey meat separately from stuffing and gravy.
  • Use refrigerated leftovers within two to three days or freeze right away for later use.
  • Avoid overstocking the refrigerator, so that cool air can circulate effectively.
  • Reheat solid leftovers, such as turkey and potatoes, to at least 74C (165F). Bring gravy to a full, rolling boil and stir a few times while reheating.

What the Government of Canada does to keep our food supply safe

The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.

Health Canada establishes regulations and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of foods sold in Canada. Through inspection and enforcement activities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada's requirements.

For more information on food safety, please visit Health Canada's website, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's website, and the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education's Next link will take you to another Web site Be Food Safe Canada program.