Information update

Food safety and fiddleheads

Starting date:
May 7, 2015
Posting date:
May 7, 2015
Type of communication:
Information Update
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Food Safety
General Public
Identification number:


Fiddleheads are a green vegetable that grow along the banks of rivers and streams. They are harvested annually, in the spring, and can be bought at farmers’ markets, roadside stands and grocery stores.

Fiddleheads can be eaten safely, but can cause food poisoning if they haven’t been properly cleaned, prepared, cooked, or stored. While there have been reported cases of people getting sick from eating raw or undercooked fiddleheads in both Canada and the U.S., there have been no cases 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 after eating. If you experience these symptoms after eating fiddleheads, contact your health care professional.

Follow these steps when preparing fiddleheads to protect you and your family from food poisoning.


  • Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after handling fiddleheads.
  • Remove as much of the brown husk as possible.
  • Wash fiddleheads using several changes of clean, cold water.


  • Cook fiddleheads by boiling for 15 minutes or steaming 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 before using in recipes that call for other cooking methods like sautéing, stir-frying or baking.


  • Clean fiddleheads thoroughly, as described above.
  • Boil for two minutes and discard the water.
  • Rinse fiddleheads in cold water and drain.
  • Pack them in sealed bags or containers.
  • Store in the freezer for up to one year.
  • Follow the cooking instructions above before serving.

Media enquiries

Health Canada
(613) 957-2983

Public enquiries

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