Food Safety

The goal of Ottawa Public Health's food safety program is to reduce the incidence of food poisoning in Ottawa by:

New Provincial Food Premises Regulation

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) has recently updated the Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493/17 (formerly Reg. 562/90) under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.  Ottawa Public Health is supporting business owners and operators by providing a short summary of some of the changes that will take effect on July 1, 2018. For a complete list of these changes, refer to the MOHLTC’s website: Food Premises (filed as O. Reg. 493/17) -

Food poisoning

"Food poisoning" is a general term used to describe a food-borne illness that usually results from eating food or drinking water contaminated by disease-causing bacteria (germs) or their toxins (poisons).

What are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?

Typical symptoms of food poisoning are:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps

These symptoms may accompany fever, chills, loss of appetite, or headache.

Often people describe these symptoms as the "stomach flu." If you suffer from mild or severe symptoms, consult your physician and notify Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744.

Keeping foods safe (clean, cook, chill, separate)

Kill or reduce the number of food poisoning bacteria in foods we prepare by:


  • Wash your hands especially after sneezing, smoking, coughing, using the washroom, touching pets, changing diapers, or touching raw meats or eggs. Wash them for at least 15 seconds with soap.
  • Remember that unwashed utensils, cutting boards, and hands can transfer bacteria from raw to cooked foods. A mixture of household bleach and water (approximately one capful of bleach to one cup of water) is a handy sanitizing solution.
  • Wash all vegetables and fruits, including those that you peel or cut, like melons, oranges and cucumbers.


  • Use a probe thermometer to check the internal temparture of food items.  The cooking temperature must be maintained for a minimum of 15 seconds.
  • Never use leftover marinade for basting or as a sauce unless you boil it first
  • Turkey or chicken and dressing should be cooked separately. 
  • All ground beef must be thoroughly cooked to minimum internal temperature of 71°C. Do not rely on the colour of the meat or juices to determine if your hamburger is cooked. The only way you will know if your burger has reached the proper temperature is to use a probe thermometer. It must be placed into the thickest part of the meat. Never eat a hamburger that is pink in the middle.
 Cooking Temperature Chart

The cooking temperature must be maintained for a minimum of 15 seconds.



Beef, veal and lamb   (pieces and whole cuts)*


63°C (145°F)


71°C (160°F)

Well done

77°C (170°F)

Poultry (e.g.   chicken, turkey, duck)**


74°C (165°F)


82°C (180°F)

Ground meat and   meat mixtures (e.g. burgers, sausages, meatballs, meatloaf, casseroles)**

Beef, veal, lamb and pork

71°C (160°F)


74°C (165°F)


70°C (158°F)

*Safe Internal Cooking Temperature Chart, Health Canada

**R.R.R. 1990, Reg. 562: FOOD PREMISES


  • Meats, eggs and dairy products should be kept at a maximum of 4°C (40 F). Keep cold foods cold - place an ice pack or a frozen drink in your lunch bag to ensure that food is kept cold until lunchtime.
  • Defrost foods in the refrigerator. Turkey or chicken should be thawed in the refrigerator and never at room temperature.


  • Double bag raw meat, when storing it in the bottom of your refrigerator or when bringing it home from the grocery store. Drippings from meat can contaminate other foods with food poisoning bacteria.
  • When barbequing, always use separate plates and utensils for the raw hamburgers and the cooked hamburgers.
What to look for when you are dining out, picking up a meal or trying to find a caterer

Inspection results posted online are meant to help the public make a decision on where to eat, but here are some other things to look for that may also be useful.

 The blue inspection certificate

Ottawa Public Health Inspection CertificateInspectors visit food establishments, both on a routine and complaint related basis, to ensure deficiencies are corrected in a timely manner. An inspection report is left with the owner/operator at the end of each inspection. The report, which may include deficiencies that were observed at the time of inspection, is posted on the Ottawa Public Health's (OPH's) food safety website shortly after the inspection. If you don't find the sit-down or take-out restaurant during your search, then it has not been inspected by OPH. In addition to the report, a blue inspection certificate is left with the owner and should be posted in a visible location for the public to see. If you don't see this blue certificate, try asking the operator about it.

Operators should be washing their hands well with soap and water for at least 15 seconds before preparing food and/or changing tasks.  Gloves and sanitizers do not replace handwashing, however, may be used under varying circumstance. An example of appropriate glove use would be if a food handler has a bandaged wound on their hand, then a glove should be worn and changed regularly.
 Foods are stored in a fridge or in a steam table and covered
Food items should always be stored in a cold or hot holding unit and covered to protect them from cross contamination by other foods, humans and/or insects. One of the common causes of foodborne illness is a bacteria called Clostridium perfringens. It typically grows in foods that are high in starch, or high in protein, that have not been properly refrigerated. Foods like cooked beans, meat pies, or stews to name a few. Symptoms can include profuse watery diarrhea, abdominal bloating and nausea.
Does the restaurant or take out area look clean and tidy? Is the mess a "daily mess" or has the dirt been accumulating for days? What about the bathrooms, are they well kept? You could also take note of the staff themselves. They should have clean hands, be wearing clean clothing and should never be smoking while preparing your food.
If you have ordered your meal to be delivered to your house, how did it arrive?  Was the food being held nice and warm in a hot box? Was the cold food in a cooler with ice packs?  If not, please consider reporting your concerns or complaint to OPH and check out the inspection results on OPH's food disclosure website.
Don't be afraid to ask the operator if they have received any food safety training.  Whether it is a culinary degree or Ottawa Public Health Food Handler Certification any accredited food handler education would be in the best interest of you and your family.
Pasteurized milk and juices
Unpasteurized milk and juices can carry a number of disease-causing bacteria, so it's recommended to only drink pasteurized products.
Raw egg products
Foods like eggnog, hollandaise sauce and Caesar salad dressing may contain raw eggs. Ottawa Public Health strongly recommends preparing these products fresh every day and using pasteurized eggs in these products.
Safe drinking water supply

Untreated water can carry a number of disease-causing bacteria. If access to safe drinking water is unavailable, be sure to bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute before consumption.

Ottawa residents living on a residential well system can have their well water tested for free.

What to do if you have a power blackout
Avoid opening the refrigerator door to keep its contents cold. Food in most freezers should remain frozen for 24 to 48 hours without power. If perishable food thaws in the freezer, it can be used safely as long as it stays cold. It is best to cook it within a day. Don't eat thawed food that has remained at room temperature for more than 2 hours. When in doubt, throw it out!

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