Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 21:24 EDT

Information Update – Food Safety Measures For Fiddleheads

April 16, 2012

OTTAWA, April 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ – Health Canada is reminding Canadians of
the importance of properly cooking fresh fiddleheads before eating

Fiddleheads are the curled, edible shoots of the ostrich fern. They are
collected along the banks of rivers and streams and sold as a seasonal
vegetable at farmer’s markets, roadside stands and in some grocery

There have been cases of temporary illness in Canada and the United
States associated with eating raw or undercooked fiddleheads. Studies
to date have not determined the cause of these illnesses.

Fiddleheads should never be eaten raw. Prior to cooking, Health Canada
recommends removing as much of the brown husk as possible from the
fiddleheads. Fresh fiddleheads should then be washed in several changes
of clean cold water. Cook them in boiling water for 15 minutes or steam
them for 10 to 12 minutes. The water used for boiling or steaming
fiddleheads should be discarded. Fiddleheads should also be boiled or
steamed prior to sautéing, frying or baking. Due to their short growing
season, many people freeze fiddleheads. Be sure to use the same cooking
methods outlined above when preparing fiddleheads that have been
frozen. Preserving fiddleheads with a pressure canner is not
recommended, as safe process times have not been established for
home-preserved fiddleheads.

Symptoms of illness usually begin 30 minutes to 12 hours after eating
raw or undercooked fiddleheads and may include diarrhea, nausea,
vomiting, abdominal cramps and headaches. Illness generally lasts less
than 24 hours but can result in dehydration, particularly among the
elderly and in infants. There have been no reported cases of illness
associated with eating fully cooked fiddleheads.

Anyone experiencing the above symptoms after consuming fiddleheads
should seek the advice of a health care professional and contact their
local public health unit.

It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of
food-related illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these cases could
be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation

For more information on food safety tips and fiddleheads, please visit:

Government of Canada’s Food Safety for Fiddleheads

Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education’s Be Food Safe Canada

Également disponible en français 

SOURCE Health Canada

Source: PR Newswire