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Meat, Poultry & Eggs Safety

Meat, poultry and eggs are extremely vulnerable to contamination by disease causing micro-organisms or pathogens.

BCCDC meat safety notes

Meat & foodborne illness

Meat is high in protein and moisture. Both are needed for the multiplication of pathogens, such as listeria. As the number of pathogens in a food increases, so does the likelihood that someone eating that food will experience food borne illness. It is critical that the slaughterhouses (abattoirs) and meat processing facilities are hygienic and operated in a sanitary manner to reduce the likelihood of contamination of the meat. 

Animals that are slaughtered for meat carry pathogens that may also make humans sick. To reduce the likelihood that an animal for slaughter is carrying a disease that could affect humans, it is important that animals are inspected prior to and during the slaughter process. In BC, government inspectors carry out this function. It is a requirement that all meat sold in BC is inspected. The requirements for this inspection process are outlined in the Food Safety Act: Meat Inspection Regulation

Mechanically tenderized beef products

Health Canada introduced mandatory labelling requirements for mechanically tenderized beef (MTB) to help consumers know when they are buying MTB products and how to cook them. The labelling requirements apply to all industry sectors selling uncooked MTB to other industry members or consumers (grocery retailers, butcher shops, meat processors and importers of MTB). 

E. coli illness outbreaks linked to MTB products have shown that these products may represent a higher level of risk as compared to whole, intact beef cuts. Health Canada encourages consumers to cook all MTB products to an internal temperature of at least 71°C (160°F). Use a food thermometer to be sure that a safe internal temperature has been reached.  

It is difficult to determine if meat has been mechanically tenderized just by looking at it. As well, mechanically tenderized meat is not required to be labelled in Canada. If you are not sure that the meat you are considering buying is mechanically tenderized, ask your butcher or retailer. If they do not know, either don’t buy the meat, or be sure you cook the meat to an internal temperature of at least 71°C.


BCCDC poultry safety notes

Poultry & foodborne illness

Salmonella enteriditis is a bacteria can cause severe foodborne illness. It can be found in many foods but especially in poultry products such as chicken, turkey and duck. 

BC has been experiencing an ongoing salmonella outbreak that began in 2007. The number of people sickened by salmonella is five times higher now as compared to pre-outbreak levels.  

Many cases of salmonella in BC are linked to the consumption of poultry products, both meat and eggs. You can lower your risk significantly by following a few simple steps when preparing poultry products. 

Handling poultry

Poultry meat, including juices, can be contaminated with SE. When you are buying poultry meat, be extra careful to not let those juices drip onto your other foods, especially those foods that won’t be further cooked. Double-wrap poultry in plastic and keep it in a separate bag and at the bottom of your shopping cart. If you use reusable grocery bags, wash them regularly in hot, soapy water. Follow the four basic rules for keeping food safe: clean, separate, cook, chill.  


As you would when handling any raw meat, wash your hands, work surfaces, cutting boards and utensils with warm soapy water thoroughly before and after touching or working with raw poultry. Washing your chicken in the sink can spread bacteria in your kitchen. To prevent contamination, do not wash your chicken, save time and put the chicken straight into the oven. 


Uncooked poultry meat, including the juices, must be kept separated from any foods that are ready to eat to prevent cross contamination.  


Cook all poultry meat products to an internal temperature of 74°C or hotter. With frozen breaded processed poultry products such as chicken nuggets, chicken strips or chicken popcorn, always read and cooking instructions carefully. These products look cooked when removed from the package but are in fact raw, uncooked meat. They must be cooked like any other raw poultry product.  


Keep uncooked poultry meat refrigerated until just prior to preparation. Always store uncooked poultry meat at the bottom of your refrigerator and below any other foods in case of dripping juices. Do not use raw poultry meat that has passed its expiry date. 


BCCDC egg safety notes

Regulated egg farms produce 97% of the eggs sold in Canada. Most of these eggs are from hens laying in cages. 

Eggs are also collected from free-run farms where hens are kept in a barn, and from free-range farms where hens have both inside and outdoor access. Organic eggs are from free-range hens. Eggs from hens that have been fed enhanced nutritional diets, such as flax, are marketed as higher in omega-3. Other diets for egg-layer hens may have higher vitamin contents that are reflected in the nutritional profile for the egg. 

There are close to 7 billion eggs made every year in Canada. 

Eggs & foodborne illness

Salmonella Enteriditis is a bacteria sometimes found in eggs that can cause foodborne illness. How many eggs might have Salmonella? Probable estimates are that Salmonella will contaminate 1.7 eggs out of every million eggs produced. Salmonella rates have been increasing in BC, and some illnesses are linked to eggs and egg products. 

Farmers have food safety control programs to control for salmonella infection in their hens and on their farm. 

How Salmonella gets into the egg

Most eggs, about 80% or less, get contaminated from an infected hen. Some eggs (about 20%) can get contaminated from the environment as well. The bacteria can get into the egg yolk, the albumen layer (underneath the egg shell) or other areas in the egg. Cracked eggs or dirty eggs are more likely to get contaminated from the environment, for example, from hen feces or dirt. Higher temperatures and moisture on the egg exterior are linked to greater risk of contamination. Salmonella has a minimum growth temperature of between 6 to 8°C, which means Salmonella will not grow in eggs kept in a refrigerator that is at a temperature of 4°C or lower.

Handling & preparing eggs

Both the inside and outside of eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella. When buying eggs, only buy eggs that are grade A, clean and uncracked. Follow the four basic rules for keeping food safe: clean, separate, cook, chill. 

See the Queensland government video: Eggs: Foodsafe in seconds


Remember that handling eggs is similar to handling raw meat. Wash your hands, work surfaces and utensils thoroughly with warm soapy water before and after handling or working with eggs and raw meat. 


Uncooked eggs should be kept separated from any foods that are ready to eat to prevent cross contamination. 


Always keep eggs refrigerated until just prior to using them. Do not store them at room temperature. Do not use eggs that have passed their expiry date. 


Salmonella is easily killed by proper cooking. Cook eggs and those dishes containing eggs to an internal temperature of 74°C or hotter. Use your meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. For single eggs, cook them until the yolk is hard, not runny. If you are using eggs for a dish that is not normally cooked (e.g. Caesars salad dressing, Béarnaise sauce, tiramisu), then use a pasteurized egg product instead. Pasteurized egg products can be found in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores. 

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SOURCE: Meat, Poultry & Eggs Safety ( )
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