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Information update

Food safety and fiddleheads

Starting date:
April 29, 2014
Posting date:
April 29, 2014
Type of communication:
Information Update
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Food Safety
General Public
Identification number:


Fiddleheads are a green vegetable that is typically available in the spring.  They grow along the banks of rivers and streams and are sometimes sold at farmer’s markets, roadside stands and grocery stores. 

Fiddleheads can be safely eaten, but can cause food poisoning if they haven’t been properly cleaned, prepared, cooked and stored.  There have been reported cases in Canada and the U.S. of people getting sick from eating raw or undercooked fiddleheads.  However, there have been no reported cases of illness associated with eating fully cooked fiddleheads.

Eating raw or undercooked fiddleheads can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and headaches. These symptoms usually occur within 30 minutes to 12 hours. Anyone who experiences these symptoms after eating fiddleheads should contact their health care professional or local public health unit

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 sautéing, 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.

Media enquiries

Health Canada
(613) 957-2983

Public enquiries

(613) 957-2991
1-866 225-0709