Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

May 16, 2006 12:40 ET

Fact Sheet: Food Safety Measures for Fiddleheads

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - May 16, 2006) - Fresh fiddleheads must be properly cooked before being consumed to avoid the potential of foodborne illness.

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. There have been a few reported cases of illnesses in Canada connected with eating fiddleheads. Although no proven cause for this hazard has yet been identified, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency believes that the most likely cause is an unidentified natural toxin present in the fiddleheads.

The Agency recommends that fresh fiddleheads be washed in several changes of cold water and cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes or steamed for 10 to 12 minutes until tender. Water used for boiling or steaming fiddleheads should be discarded as it may contain the toxin. Fiddleheads should also be boiled or steamed prior to sauteing, frying or baking.

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.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms after consuming fiddleheads should immediately seek medical attention for the correct diagnoses and proper treatment, as well as contacting the local public health unit.

For more information on food safety, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Web site at:

Contact Information

  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
    Media relations
    (613) 228-6682