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Food Advisory - Thoroughly Cook Fidleheads

Web posted on April 29, 2014

Ottawa - Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are advising consumers that fresh fiddleheads must be properly cooked before being consumed. The CFIA has recently received several reports of illnesses in British Columbia associated with the consumption of fiddleheads.

Fiddleheads are the curled, edible shoots of the Ostrich Fern. They are collected in the wild and sold as a seasonal vegetable in stores or outdoor markets.

Although no proven cause for this hazard has yet been identified, Health Canada and the CFIA believe that the most likely cause is an unidentified natural toxin present in the fiddleheads.

Follow these steps when preparing fiddleheads to protect you and your family from food poisoning:
--> Remove as much of the brown husk as possible
--> Wash the fiddleheads using several changes of clean, cold water.

--> Never eat raw or undercooked fiddleheads.
--> Cook fiddleheads in lightly salted boiling water for 15 minutes or steam them for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are tender. Discard the water that was used for cooking.
--> Fiddleheads should be boiled or steamed as described above prior to use in recipes that use further cooking methods like sauting, stir-frying or baking.

--> Clean fiddleheads properly.
--> Boil them in water for two minutes and discard the water.
--> Rinse fiddleheads in cold water and drain.
--> Pack them in sealed bags or containers.
--> Store them in the freezer for up to one year for best quality.
--> Follow the cooking instructions above before serving.

Symptoms 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. This can result in dehydration, particularly among the elderly and in infants.

There have been no reported cases of illnesses connected with eating fully cooked fiddleheads.

Anyone experiencing the above symptoms after consuming fiddleheads should contact their local public health unit and seek the advice of their family doctor to ensure a correct diagnosis and proper treatment.

Healthy Canadians Food Safety & Fiddleheads