Recalls and alerts more than 4 years old are automatically archived. While this information can still be accessed in the database, it has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats by contacting us.

Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

Starting date:
December 19, 2013
Posting date:
December 19, 2013
Type of communication:
Information Update
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Food Safety
General Public
Identification number:


Food is a big part of many holiday celebrations. Baked goods, eggnog, cider, seafood and turkey are often served at this time of year. Some of these foods carry bacteria or parasites that can cause foodborne illness (“food poisoning”). It is estimated that approximately four million Canadians every year experience some form of food-related illness. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

What you should do

There are four basic steps to follow to reduce the risk of foodborne illness:

Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

  • Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often with warm, soapy water.
  • Separate: Make sure to always separate raw foods, such as meat and eggs, from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods such as vegetables.
  • Cook: Always cook food to the safe internal temperature. You can check this by using a digital food thermometer.
  • Chill: Always refrigerate food and leftovers promptly at 4°C or below.

Remember – you cannot tell if food is contaminated with harmful bacteria by the way that it looks, smells or tastes. When in doubt, throw it out!

Let’s talk about food safety for some of your favourite holiday foods:

Baked goods: Holiday cookies and squares are a special treat, but uncooked cookie dough, batters or frostings made with raw eggs can contain Salmonella bacteria. Always make sure your baked goods are cooked thoroughly and, even though it’s tempting, never lick the spoon or eat raw cookie dough when baking with eggs.

Eggnog: Store-bought eggnog is pasteurized to destroy any dangerous bacteria. If you make eggnog at home using raw eggs, make sure to heat the egg and milk mixture to at least 71° C (160° F). Immediately after heating, refrigerate the eggnog in small, shallow containers to allow it to cool quickly. Another option to ensure you eggnog is safe is to use pasteurized egg and milk ingredients, which are available at many grocery stores.

Fruit juice and cider: If you serve punch or cider, check the product label to make sure the juice or cider has been pasteurized. Unpasteurized juice may contain bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella that can cause serious illness, especially in children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. If it has not been pasteurized, you can make it safer by boiling the product before serving.

Oysters and seafood: Some people enjoy eating raw seafood, such as oysters and sushi, during their holiday festivities. However, raw or undercooked fish and seafood may contain bacteria, parasites or viruses, so special care is needed in their preparation and handling. Keep seafood refrigerated and serve it on ice to ensure it remains cold during holiday buffets. Older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to the risks of foodborne illness and should avoid eating raw or undercooked fish and seafood.

Holiday Buffets: If you have a big crowd to feed, buffets may be more your style. To keep hot food hot, use warming trays, chafing dishes or crock pots. To keep cold food cold, put serving trays on crushed ice. Don't allow food to remain at room temperature for more than two hours and don’t add more food to serving dishes already in use. Instead, use a clean platter or serving dish each time you re-stock the buffet.

Turkey and stuffing: If you are cooking a turkey for a holiday meal, make sure it is cooked properly by checking the internal temperature using a digital food thermometer. The temperature is measured by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast or thigh should be at least 85° C (185° F). To prevent potential cross-contamination, cook stuffing separately in its own oven dish or on the stove top. If you do stuff your turkey, stuff loosely just prior to roasting and remove all stuffing immediately after cooking. Cook stuffing to a minimum internal temperature of 74° C (165° F) and refrigerate within two hours of cooking.

Media enquiries

Health Canada
(613) 957-2983

Public enquiries

(613) 957-2991
1-866 225-0709

For more information

Healthy Canadians

Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education