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Food safety and hygiene advice

The issue

Although governments throughout the world do their best to improve the safety of the food supply, the occurrence of foodborne disease remains a significant health issue in both developed and developing countries. In recent years, a number of extremely serious foodborne disease outbreaks have occurred on virtually every continent, demonstrating both the public health and social significance of foodborne disease.

Even though the contamination of food can occur at any stage of the food production, a high level of foodborne disease is still caused by foods improperly prepared, or mishandled at home or in food service establishments. Education of food handlers (which includes all consumers) is therefore essential in the prevention of foodborne disease. ​​

Five Keys to Safer Food

The World Health Organisation (WHO) identified the need to communicate simple and clear messages based on evidence and the need to provide countries with materials they can easily use, reproduce and adapt to different target audiences. After a year of consultation with food safety experts and risk communicators, the WHO introduced a global health message to prevent foodborne disease:

The Five Keys to Safer Food.

  1. Keep clean
  2. Separate raw and cooked
  3. Cook thoroughly
  4. Keep food at safe temperatures
  5. Use safe water and raw material

This message has been developed by the Food Standards Agency using the 4 C's approach to Food Safety and you can follow the links for further information

The Four C's

The Four C's that will help you to stay safe from food-borne illnesses in the kitchen.

  1. Cleaning
  2. Cooking
  3. Cross contamination
  4. Chilling


Clean kitchen surfaces after preparing foods; try to 'clean as you go'.

  • After handling raw meat, poultry, fish and other raw foods always wash hands, utensils and surfaces thoroughly and before any contact with other food, especially cooked and ready-to-eat foods.

Use the right materials for the job.

Detergents such as washing up liquids are designed to dissolve grease, oil and dirt. Disinfectants, such as bleach, are designed to kill germs.

  • These are powerful agents and should not be used indiscriminately. Anti-bacterial cleaners are types of disinfectant and can kill germs, they often come in spray form.
  • Disinfectants and anti-bacterial cleaners won't work if you don't use them properly, so always follow the instructions.

Do things right:

  • Use separate buckets and cloths for cleaning floors.
  • Give your kitchen a thorough 'spring clean' periodically.
  • Always clean surfaces first with detergent to remove any grease or dirt, then apply disinfectant to kill any remaining germs.
  • Use separate cloths or sponges for separate tasks; where practicable use disposable cloths. If using them more than once, wash in hot water and soap then place in a suitable disinfectant, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry.
  • Do not soak overnight as disinfectant solutions weaken and may allow bacteria to grow.


Follow recipes and label instructions on cooking times and temperatures.

  • Remember to pre-heat the oven properly.

Check food is piping hot before serving. Double check that sausages, burgers, pork and poultry are cooked right through; they should not be 'rare' or pink in the middle and when pierced with a knife any juices that run out of the meat should be clear, not bloody.

Don't cook foods too far in advance. Once cooked, keep foods covered and piping hot (above 63°C) until it's time to eat them.

When using the microwave stir foods and drinks and allow them to stand for a couple of minutes to avoid hot or cold spots.​

Cross contamination

Food poisoning is often caused when harmful bacteria on one food or surface are spread via hands or kitchen utensils to cross-contaminate other foods.

Good hygiene helps prevent this. Keep raw foods separate from cooked and ready-to-eat food at all times.

In particular keep raw meat, fish, poultry and other raw foods away from ready-to-eat foods such as salads, bread and sandwiches.

Never put cooked food on a plate which has previously held raw foods until it has been thoroughly washed.

Ideally use separate chopping boards for raw and cooked foods.

Wash hands after handling raw foods and before touching other foods and utensils.


Do not put hot food directly into the fridge or freezer, let it cool sufficiently first; but remember that cooling should be completed within one or two hours after cooking.

To speed cooling divide foods into smaller portions, place in a wide dish and stand this in a shallow tray of cold water.

Safer food, better business (SFBB)

SFBB is an innovative and practical approach to food safety management. It was developed to help small businesses put in place food safety management procedures and comply with food hygiene regulations.

There are a number of SFBB packs available that are designed to meet the specific needs of different food businesses. There are packs for small catering businesses, small retail businesses, and restaurants and takeaways that serve different cuisines, such as Chinese or Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan cuisines. There is also a pack for child-minders and a supplement for care homes that is designed to be used with the pack for caterers.