What are high-risk or potentially hazardous foods?
Potentially hazardous foods are those that are capable of supporting pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms or their toxins and often cause foodborne illness.
Some examples of potentially hazardous foods are:
- Meat and meat products;
- Fish, shellfish and seafood products;
- Cut up fruits and vegetables; and
- Cream-filled pastries and pies.
Ready-to-eat foods are those that do not require cooking or re-heating before being consumed. This presents further risk to the client as there is no further heat treatment to render the food safe, especially if the food was prepared without following safe food preparation and handling practices.
Food donations that are allowed
- Foods from approved food sources (i.e., provincially licensed or federally registered facilities); and
- Prepared and raw foods except for those listed below under ‘not permitted by law’.
Food donations that are not permitted by law
- Shell eggs that are not from a CFIA-registered establishment;
- Unpasteurized milk and milk products (all dairy products must be from a licensed or registered establishment);
- Raw milk cheese not from an approved premises;
- Uninspected wild game;
- Low-acid canned food that does not meet the requirements outlined in Division B.27 of the Food and Drugs Regulations. For example, the process the preserve is made under would have to be validated or kept frozen or refrigerated with an indication of storage requirements on the label. Full details may be found under Division B.27; and
- Smoked fish, shellfish and seafood products that do not meet the requirements outlined in Division B.21.025 of the Food and Drugs Regulations. For example, smoked fish in packages that are sealed to exclude air and without any other means of preservation must be kept frozen. Full details may be found under Division B21.
Food donations that should not be made and are considered a health hazard
- Wild mushrooms;
- Food that is passed its expiry date;
- Leftover food that has already been on a table, in a buffet table, or otherwise not protected from contamination;
- Partially consumed food;
- Food that has already been reheated;
- Food donated as a result of a flood, fire or power interruption;
- Food that has been previously opened;
- Food with damaged packaging;
- Food that has or may have been temperature abused;
- Food that has a spoiled appearance (smell, texture, color); and
- Food that has or may have been contaminated in some way.
Low acid canned food (LACF)
The Food and Drugs Regulations define ‘low acid canned food’ as “a food, other than an alcoholic beverage, where any component of the food has a pH greater than 4.6 and a water activity greater than 0.85.”
Low acid canned food is of concern because of the risk of contamination with Clostridium botulinum, bacteria which can cause a foodborne illness called Botulism. Botulism is very serious and can be fatal. C. botulinum forms spores that are resistant to heat and drought and are able to grow into new bacteria under anaerobic (lack of oxygen) conditions. If this happens, the new bacteria can form toxins in the food which, if ingested, cause serious illness.
Examples of LACF that are commonly associated with C. botulinum are:
- Green beans
- Chicken and chicken livers
- Liver pate
- Smoked, salted and fermented fish and meat products
- Chicken or beef stew
- Bottled fish or shellfish (bar clams, oysters, clam fricot, lobster
Rule of thumb
When in doubt, throw it out. If food is not safe to consume at home it is also not safe to donate, and vice versa.