Appropriate temperature is especially pertinent to Categories 3 and 4 – potentially hazardous foods. These foods are at risk for temperature abuse if they are not kept at their proper storage temperatures. Foods that require refrigeration should be kept between 0°C to 4°C and frozen foods at –18°C or less. Category 1 Non-Perishable Foods are shelf stable and can be just kept at room temperature.
Any person (e.g. volunteer, employees, transportation personnel) prior to entering food handling areas, is required to properly wash their hands and immediately after contacting contaminated materials. Frequent hand washing is encouraged and volunteers or transportation personnel should wash their hands again:
A person should not be handling food in the following health conditions:
Gloves should be worn when there needs to be direct contact with foods.
Important decisions are made when someone is handling food and proper training are needed for those involved in main aspects of donating the food such as operating, handling, and distributing of foods.
FOODSAFE is a course recommended for handlers of food. The Food Premises Regulation instructs every operator of a food service establishment to hold a FOODSAFE certificate or its equivalence. Volunteers, operating employees, and handlers of the food are encouraged to complete at minimum the FOODSAFE Level 1 Program or equivalent. This certificate is valid for five years after the training is successfully completed.
For details, see the FOODSAFE website.
|Recalled Products||See the updated list at www.inspection.gc.ca|
|Visible mould, significantly bruised, rotten or has an off odour||Although some solid foods with mould can be salvaged, they are not permitted for donation due to sensitivity with handling and contamination.
Bruising in a large area (mainly produce) degrades quickly and is not ideal for donations.
|Mishandled or unsafe foods||
|Open buffet food||Food where people served themselves|
*See appendix for reference.
If your product doesn’t belong to the unacceptable products listed above, that’s great! Now let’s evaluate the condition of the food to ensure it is definitely safe to be donated. If your business has a Quality Assurance team, they need to give the go-ahead on food safety before donations can be posted to Mesh. Any product that wouldn’t be safe for consumers should not be donated.
The danger zone is the range between 4°C and 60°C where most bacteria multiply the fastest. The time that foods are kept in this temperature range should be avoided or kept as short as possible. Category 3 and 4 Foods (Table 2) should be kept at their proper storage temperature.
Hands should be washed:
Proper hand washing steps:
|1 – Non-Perishable Foods||
|2 – Low-Risk Perishable Foods||
|3 – Potentially Hazardous Foods||
|4 – Prepared Foods||
The following flow charts from the BC Centre for Disease Control’s: Guidelines for Food Distribution Organizations with Grocery or Meal Programs, are intended to help determine the safety of the perishable food product. If after using the flow charts, you’re uncertain about the fit for donation, contact us to help figure this out.
Best before date or sell-by date is more of an indicator of quality than safety. Food generally declines in quality before there is an increased risk to food safety. Often freezing products can significantly prolong the life of the product.
As an overall rule, foods should be kept at their proper storage temperatures and not be removed until it is ready for donation.
|Product Category||Time Past Best Before Date|
|Fresh Fruit & Vegetables||2-7 days||1-4 Weeks (produce dependent)||1 Year|
|Fruit or Vegetable Juices (Tetra Pak or Bottled not requiring refrigeration before opening)||1 month (Tetra Pak)||3-6 months (Tetra Pak)||1 Year|
|Breads||1 Week||2 Week||1 Month|
|Grains & Cereals||6-12 Months||N/A||N/A|
|Soups & Stews (Could be in Food Service Package or larger)||< 2 Hours, 1 Year if canned||2-3 Days||3 Months|
|Meat (Uncooked)||< 2 Hours||3-4 Days||Red meats & whole poultry: 12 Months, poultry pieces: 6 months, ground meat: 2-3 Months, fish 2-6 Months, shellfish 2-4 Months|
|Meat (Cooked)||< 2 Hours, 1 Year if canned||Fish & shellfish: 1-2 days, others: 3 days||Red meat: 3 Months, whole poultry: 2 Months, food mixture: 3 Months|
|Deli meat||< 2 Hours, 1 Year if canned||5-7 days||2-3 months|
|Dairy||< 2 Hours after opening||2 weeks (after opening/reconstituted)||6 months|
|Combination Foods (contains a mix group of foods)||1 Year if canned||N/A||3 Months|
|Fats (oils, butter, plant-alternatives)||1 Week||3 Months||6 Months|
The following are Health Canada‘s recommended refrigeration times for safety, and freezing times for quality.
These recommendations are subject to change. Please refer to Health Canada for the latest guidelines.
Record keeping is important in keeping track of products. In case of a recall, the donor is able identify whether the donated products have been affected. Information pertinent to the product for donation should include the following:
10 identified major allergens in Canada:
Food recipients may have the capacity to pick up while others may need the food delivered. This would be coordinated on FoodMesh. Perishable foods should be kept in appropriate temperatures during transportation through mechanical refrigeration or chilled chest coolers.
Category 3 – Potentially hazardous foods should not be out of proper storage temperature more longer than 2 hours (including transportation, storage, cooling).
Page last updated: August 2022