6 tips to help improve your food safety knowledge and practices

Restaurants, cafes and bars across Canada may have reopened, however many people are continuing to cook at home to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19. Make sure your food handling safety hygiene knowledge is up-to-date by following these helpful tips from the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal.

When it comes to food safety, many of us use the 'sniff' test to check whether our food smells bad and has spoiled or the 'five second' rule when food is dropped on the floor, but food safety is more than that. Every year, one in eight Canadians fall ill after consuming contaminated or undercooked food, which results in staggering costs for individuals, the health system and society as a whole. A recent study revealed that Canadians are becoming less aware of how to safely handle and prepare food to avoid foodborne illness and food poisoning. While most people fully recover from foodborne illness or intoxication, older adults are at higher risk of getting listeriosis and have higher rates of hospitalization and death if they are infected with salmonella or Campylobacter.


Food safety can begin at home with some of these tips:

Refrigerate your leftovers

Did you know that perishable food should not be left out for more than two hours at room temperature?

Wash your hands before or after handling raw meat
To reduce the growth of bacteria and cross-contamination, wash your hands, utensils and cooking surfaces.

Check your refrigerator temperature
Make sure the fridge is set to no more than 4 degrees Celsius, and the freezer to -18 degrees Celsius.

Be cautious about at risk food
Many people consume undercooked food, which increases the risk for pathogens. At risk food may include eggs, soft cheeses, cured meats and seafood.

Check expiration dates
You must check the "best before" date indicated on the packaging and make sure to cook or freeze meat, fish and seafood before this date.

Be aware of pathogens
Surveys have shown that older adults are generally aware of E. Coli and salmonella, but not Listeria. Since older adults constitute a high-risk population for listeriosis, family members, friends or health and social services professionals should not hesitate to provide them with information on food safety practices.

Do you value credible health and social information? McMaster University has developed the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal to give you access to research-based information to help you age well and manage your health conditions. Visit the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal for the latest evidence-based information to support healthy aging.