Hygienic Food Preparation and Handling

Food naturally contains bacteria and some food may contain food poisoning bacteria which can make you sick. Food needs to be handled correctly to ensure that it does not become contaminated, and that the bacteria already in the food do not have an opportunity to multiply.

If this occurs, the result can be food poisoning. Food poisoning is a very serious matter, both for the person affected, and for the business which supplied the food.

One case of food poisoning can close down a business.

If you have a job which involves handling food, you have an important responsibility to the public to prevent food becoming contaminated with bacteria. This not only protects the health of the public, it also protects your business, your reputation as a food handler, your job and you.

  • Cross Contamination

    Raw food contains bacteria, including bacteria which can cause food poisoning. If raw food is cooked thoroughly, to over 60 degrees C, most of these bacteria will be killed. However, if raw food comes into contact with other food which has already been cooked, or is ready-to-eat, the bacteria can transfer to this food and cause food poisoning. This is called cross contamination.

    For this reason, it is very important to keep raw food totally separate from cooked and ready-to-eat food during preparation and storage.

  • Preparing Food

    Separate utensils, chopping boards, bowls etc. should be used in the preparation of raw food and ready-to-eat or cooked food. If it is not possible to use separate equipment, the equipment must be thoroughly washed in hot water and detergent and sanitised in between use.

    Thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables in clean water before use, to remove soil, bacteria, insects and chemical residues.

  • Handling Food

    Everyone has bacteria on their bodies, whether they are healthy or ill. Even healthy people can spread bacteria onto food through touching it with their hands.

    If food must be touched by hand, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly. Raw food which is to be cooked can be safely handled with bare hands, but for cooked or ready-to-eat food, utensils such as tongs, spoons, spatulas or disposable gloves should be used. If you are using gloves change them at least once per hour. If the gloves become torn or contaminated, or if you take them off, don't try to use them again-throw them away and put on new gloves. Wash your hands before putting on the new gloves. Never use the same gloves you used with raw food with cooked or ready-to-eat food, and never clean while wearing gloves and then touch food.

    Food handlers' lack of personal hygiene can cause food to become contaminated.

  • Cooking/Heating Food

    Bacteria multiply rapidly in the temperature range between 5 degrees C and 60 degrees C. For this reason, this temperature range is known as the temperature danger zone. It is very important that food spends the shortest possible time in this temperature range.

    Food should be cooked as quickly as possible. Make sure all foods, particularly those of animal origin, are cooked thoroughly. This will kill most bacteria.Food should be cooked from a thawed state, to ensure that it is cooked through. Where it must be cooked from a frozen state, take extra care to make sure that the food is cooked right through, and that its internal temperature reaches at least 60 degrees C.

  • Cooling Food

    Food just taken out of the oven, should spend no longer than one hour at room temperature. This food should then be placed in the refrigerator, to make sure that the temperature drops to below 5 degrees C as fast as possible. Large portions of food cool faster when put into shallow trays no deeper than 10cm or divided into smaller portions.

  • Freezing and Thawing Food

    While frozen food is thawing, bacteria in it start multiplying. If the food is re-frozen, the bacteria do not die, and are still there when the food is thawed again. When you re-thaw the food, it is likely to have higher levels of bacteria. For this reason, you should never re-freeze thawed food.

    When thawing food, place it in the bottom part of the refrigerator to ensure that it remains cold throughout the thawing process and does not contaminate other food. Microwave ovens can be used to thaw food, provided the food is cooked immediately afterwards.

    Food that is to be frozen, should be packaged into small portions to allow it to freeze and thaw in the shortest possible time.

  • Packaging and Serving Prepared Food

    Food packaging material must be clean, durable and non-toxic. Choose packaging material which is suitable for the food to be packaged, and will stand up to the storage conditions you intend to use. Store surplus packaging material away from the food preparation area to avoid contamination.

    Unused food containers should be stored upside down to avoid dust and dirt getting into them. Check that containers are clean before using them. Do not re-use single use containers.

    When serving food, take care to ensure that all cutlery, crockery and drinking straws used are protected from contamination. Use only clean, undamaged crockery and cutlery.