BBQ, Picnicking and Grocery Shopping Tips

Thousands of people in Ontario suffer from foodborne illness (also called food poisoning) each year. Symptoms of foodborne illness can include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps.

You can start feeling sick anywhere from hours to a week or more after the food has been eaten. Most often, people get sick within a couple of days after eating food that has become contaminated, so it's very important to follow these important tips when barbequing, picnicking and grocery shopping.

Reduce the risk of foodborne illness

Always follow these four steps:

  1. Clean: wash hands and surfaces often
  2. Separate: don't cross-contaminate foods, cutting boards, etc.
  3. Cook: cook to proper temperatures
  4. Chill: refrigerate promptly

Temperature rules for safe cooking

Cook until the inside temperature of the food reaches the temperatures shown below and then continue cooking for at least 15 seconds.

Whole poultry
  • Chicken, turkey, duck
82°C (180°F)
Stuffing in poultry 74°C (165°F)
Cut or ground poultry
  • Cut poultry (breast, thighs, wings)
  • Ground poultry
74°C (165°F )
Food mixtures
  • Food mixtures, such as soups, stews, casseroles, stocks and gravy containing poultry, eggs, meat or fish
74°C (165°F )
  • Beef, lamb, veal or goat (roasts and steaks - medium done)
  • Pork or fresh cured ham
  • Ground meat other than poultry, such as beef, pork
71°C (160°F )

70°C (158°F )


Preparing your food

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling any raw food, especially meat, poultry and seafood
  • Firstly, use hot soapy water to clean all surfaces (refrigerators, counters, dishes, utensils, thermometers, etc.) that could have come into contact with raw meat. Secondly, use a sanitizer as per the manufacturer's recommendations to sanitize these surfaces previously contaminated from the raw meat.
  • Do not let ready-to-eat foods like lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, etc. come into contact with raw meat or its juices. Pre-heat the barbecue before cooking. If using a charcoal barbecue, use enough charcoal and wait until it is glowing red before starting to cook.


  • Ensure internal cooking temperature requirements are met - see chart above. As an example, your beef burger is done when its internal temperature reaches 71°C (160°F) for at least 15 seconds. Colour alone is not a reliable indicator that a burger is safe to eat. Burgers can turn brown before all bacteria are killed.
  • Reduce the heat or raise the height of the grill if food starts to burn during cooking. Remember it is the internal temperature of the patty that is important. Take the internal temperature from the thickest section of the patty.
  • Keep on cooking! Continue cooking your burgers if any reading is less than 71°C (160°F).
  • Probe-type food thermometers with digital read-outs work best for determining if your burger is done. Remember to wash and sanitize the thermometer between temperature measurements.
  • Oven-safe meat thermometers designed for testing whole poultry and roasts during cooking are not suitable for measuring the temperature of beef patties. Use thoroughly cleaned and sanitized utensils and plates when removing cooked meats from the heat source.
  • When taking food off the grill, do not put the cooked items on the same platter which previously held the raw meat unless you have thoroughly cleaned and sanitized the platter in between uses


  • Cover and store leftover cooked food in a refrigerator or cooler maintaining 4 degrees C or less within 2 hours from use and reheat leftovers to their original cooking temperatures (for a minimum of 15 seconds)


Packing for your trip

  • As always, wash hands before preparing food and use thoroughly cleaned and sanitized counters, plates and utensils
  • Have enough coolers with ice or frozen gel packs in which to store the perishable foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and salads. You want to keep the food at 4 degrees C. Pack foods right from the refrigerator into the coolers.
  • Pack raw meats, poultry, or seafood on the bottom of the cooler. This will reduce the risk of them dripping on other foods. Pack coolers until they are full. A full cooler will stay cold longer than one that is partially full.
  • Use a separate cooler for drinks so the one containing the food won't constantly be opened and closed
  • If possible, don't put the cooler in the car trunk. Carry it inside an air-conditioned car. At picnics, keep the cooler in the shade and keep the lid closed. Replenish the ice if it melts.
  • Find out if there is a source of safe drinking water at your destination. If not, bring water for preparation and rinsing hands. Hand sanitizer is great to bring along but you must ensure your hands that are visibly clean prior to use

Cooking and eating

  • If you plan on getting takeout foods, eat them within an hour of pick up
  • Do not partially grill extra meat or poultry to use later. Once you begin, cook until completely done to ensure bacteria are destroyed.
  • When taking food off the grill, do not put the cooked items on the same platter which previously held the raw meat unless you have thoroughly cleaned and sanitized the platter in between uses
  • Don't leave perishable foods un-refrigerated for more than two hours. Put perishable foods back in the cooler or refrigerator as soon as you finish eating. Don't leave them out while you go for a swim or a hike, and don't leave them out all afternoon to nibble on.

Packing up

  • Picnic leftovers that have been sitting out for more than an hour or two must be thrown out. Cold foods that were kept in a cooler that still has ice may be safe. If the ice has melted, the food should be thrown out.

Grocery shopping

Plan your trip

  • Select your packaged and canned foods first
  • Shop for meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs, and frozen food last so that these foods spend less time in your shopping cart, warming up to room temperature

Shopping safety

  • Buy pasteurized milk, cheese, ciders, and juices
  • Choose eggs that are not cracked, look clean, and are not expired
  • Don't buy cans or jars that are dented, bulging, cracked, or have loose lids
  • Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged
  • Choose frozen packages that are not open, torn, have crushed edges or are above the top of the store freezer compartment
  • Transport food home as quickly as possible, in a cooler or insulated bag if necessary
  • Meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk, and eggs are potentially hazardous because they are moist, rich in nutrients, and low in acidity-exactly the right combination that sets the stage for bacterial growth. All these foods need for dangerous bacteria to grow is warmth. Warmth is any temperature above 4° C and below 60° C - the "temperature danger zone." Leaving perishable foods in the temperature danger zone too long allows bacteria to multiply enough to cause foodborne illness.
  • A refrigerator should keep foods cooler than 4° C

Avoid cross-contamination

  • Keep meat, poultry, and seafood separate from other foods in your shopping basket
  • Make sure their juices do not drip onto other foods (especially those eaten raw, like fruits and vegetables) by placing these items in plastic bags provided at the meat counter or produce department
  • Make sure meat, poultry, and seafood are bagged separately from other foods at the checkout counter

Food product dating

  • Remember to check the expiry date before selecting an item
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