In Canada, all restaurants, coffee shops, drive-thrus and food trucks are inspected to make sure that safe food handling practices are followed.
However, there are a few things to watch for when dining away from home:
- This may seem obvious but choose a restaurant that looks clean. If the restrooms and dining area are not clean and tidy chances are the kitchen might not be as well.
- If your food is not cooked properly, don’t be afraid to send it back. Hot meal should be served hot and cold food like pre-packaged sandwiches should be refrigerated and feel cold when you eat them. Lukewarm foods are prone to bacteria growth if they are in the temperature danger zone of between 4 C (40F) and 60 C (140 F) for too long.
- Further, ground meat, hamburger and chicken must be well cooked with no pink meat showing and the juice from the meat is clear. If there is pink send it back.
- Ask questions about how food items that are higher risk of food poisoning are prepared. Is the Caesar salad dressing made with raw eggs? Are the flavoured oils and pesto made fresh or commercially sourced?
- Don’t downplay food allergies. Better safe than sorry. Most restaurants are aware and diligent about food allergies, however, it is best to double-check ingredients and alert your server to avoid cross-contamination.
- Be mindful at food buffets. Are the hot foods hot and the cold foods cold? Does each dish have its own serving utensil? Is food replenished regularly? Is there a guard or cover for each dish? Are the plates and utensils clean?
- If you are taking food home after a meal or as take out, follow the two hour rule. Either eat or refrigerate leftovers within two hours. Throw away any cooked food left out over 2 hours. Make sure your waiter or waitress brings you the container to fill from the table after a meal rather than taking it back to the kitchen. This is a better food safety practice than taking half eaten food back into the kitchen.