Food Safety when Hunting and Gathering — Info for First Nations

Food Safety when Hunting and Gathering — Info for First Nations


In this video you’ll learn simple things you can do when you bring food home from hunting and gathering wild berries, vegetables and plants to ensure that they are safe for you, your family and your community. Hunting and gathering are activities that are good for your body and your health in general. It’s also an excellent way to put traditional foods on the table, which are known to have many health benefits. When you’re hunting and gathering wild plants, berries and vegetables, it’s best to follow simple food safety practices to avoid getting sick. Hunting and gathering have always been a part of my life. Providing traditional food for my family and my community is important to me. But I need to properly handle what the land has to offer to keep it safe to eat. Listen to learn what we can all do to protect ourselves and our family and our community. Here are some things to bring with you when you go hunting to ensure that your food does not get contaminated: Enough water to wash hands and equipment, soap and paper towels to clean hands and tools, sharp knives or a bone saw, gloves, rope or string in case you need to hang the animal up, plastic bags or cheesecloth, and a cooler with ice. Make sure all equipment is washed and sanitized before you leave home, and that you wash and sanitize your equipment after you’re done using it. It is recommended to use steel bullets when hunting. It’s also important to observe the animals to see if they’re acting normally. Paying attention to how they look and behave will help you identify animals that may be sick and that might not be safe to eat. It is advised not to kill an animal that is sick or is not acting normal. It’s important that you wear gloves when handling the carcass, especially small game like muskrat or beaver because these carry and transfer diseases. Be sure to wash your hands before and after handling game meat. When you bring the carcass in from the land, it is important to keep it cool and covered until you reach the area where it will be prepared. There are many ways that you can cool a carcass quickly, like cutting it into halves, quarters or smaller pieces. You can place pieces of the carcass in clean cloth bags or in plastic bags and in a cooler with ice. This will help you prevent bacterial growth, which can lead to contamination and spoil the meat. If you are using a vehicle to move the carcass, you should make sure that it is clean as possible. Once you have brought the meat home you should make sure to gut it within a few hours if it is not done at the hunting site. Then it should be refrigerated at 4 degrees Celsius or lower or frozen at minus 18 degrees Celsius or lower or thoroughly cooked at a safe minimum internal temperature ranging between 71 and 84 degree Celsius to kill any parasites or bacteria. For more information on the cooking temperatures for game meat, visit HealthyCanadians.gc.ca /FirstNationsFoodSafety. Wild plants, berries and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients, and are low in calories, fat and sodium. When gathering it’s best to follow safe food handling practices to avoid picking food that has been contaminated by insects, animals, chemicals or other sources. There are many simple things you can do to ensure safety to prevent spoilage and to reduce any chances of contamination while picking plants, berries and vegetables. When you are collecting plants, berries or vegetables, be sure that you are familiar with the area. You do not want to collect berries or plants in areas by the roadside, by railways or on construction sites because they may be contaminated with chemicals. Another good way to minimize contamination is to make sure the plants, berries or vegetables don’t have mould or an unusual smell. Be careful not to bruise berries when picking because bacteria can easily multiply in the bruised areas. It’s also a good idea to bring clean containers or bags in which you can collect the foods you will be gathering. Even when you’re at the market it is important to make sure that the food you buy is safe for you and your family. It’s best to try to choose fruits and vegetables that are fresh and firm and free from bruises, fruits surrounded by ice that they have been cut. Another easy way to avoid contamination from one food to the other is to bag your fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry or seafood, and keep them separate in the shopping basket or cart, and also in the grocery bags. Before you eat the fruit and vegetables you have gathered on the land or bought at the market, there are simple actions you can take to make sure your food is safe. Wash your hands in warm soapy water and rinse well before and after handling food. Remove and throw away leaves that are brown or wilted. Wash fruits and vegetables in clean water to remove any dirt. Make sure that cutting boards and utensils are washed or sanitized before using them to cut raw fruits and vegetables. And finally, don’t use the same utensils or equipment for fruits and vegetables that were used for meat, fish or poultry unless they’ve been properly washed and sanitized. When you are done washing the fruits and vegetables, you should store them in the fridge at 4 degrees Celsius or in a clean cool dry place. Well, that’s it for this segment. For more information on how to handle food safely when hunting or gathering, visit HealthyCanadians.gc.ca /FirstNationsFoodSafety or talk to your local environmental health officer or health care provider. Please watch other segments for information on food safety at home or when fishing or when preparing for a community event.

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