Key messages

  • Food must be safely prepared, stored and displayed.
  • Food businesses must be aware of the temperature danger zone.
  • Cross-contamination can result in food poisoning, and must be avoided.
  • Pre-prepared and ready-to-eat food must be labelled properly, so the food stays safe to eat.

Safe food preparation

To safely prepare food, you should follow these tips:

  • keep raw foods and ready-to-eat foods separate to avoid cross-contamination
  • use separate, clean utensils and cutting boards for raw foods and ready-to-eat foods, or wash and sanitise utensils and cutting boards between uses
  • thoroughly clean, sanitise and dry cutting boards, knives, pans, plates, containers and other utensils after using them
  • thoroughly rinse all fruit and vegetables in clean water to remove soil, bacteria, insects and chemicals
  • make sure food is thoroughly cooked and the centre of the cooked food has reached 75 °C
  • avoid leaving recently cooked food out to cool for more than 1 hour; as soon as food has cooled, place it in the refrigerator
  • know about and avoid the temperature danger zone - Bacteria grow quickly in high-risk foods that are kept at temperatures between 5 °C and 60 °C.
  • thaw frozen food on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to keep it out of the temperature danger zone
  • take extra care when preparing foods that contain raw eggs – such as egg nog, homemade mayonnaise and aioli – because bacteria on the egg shells can contaminate the food
  • be trained in safe food handling and preparation.

Safe food storage and display

To safely store and display food, you should follow these tips:

  • keep raw foods and ready-to-eat foods separate, to avoid cross-contamination
  • store food in clean, food-grade storage containers
  • don’t store food in opened cans
  • make sure food storage containers have not been used to store things other than food, and wash and sanitise them before use
  • don’t reuse containers that are only meant to be used once
  • if a reusable container is in poor condition, throw it out
  • cover food with tight-fitting lids, foil or plastic film, to protect the food from dust, insects and cross-contamination
  • wash and rinse any garnishes used on food
  • store food in areas specially designed for food storage, such as refrigerators, coolrooms, pantries and food storerooms
  • never store food on the floor or on pallets, or in areas containing chemicals, cleaning equipment, clothing or personal belongings
  • remove and avoid using foods that are past their use-by dates, spoilt, or are in damaged containers or packaging
  • know about and avoid the temperature danger zone - Bacteria grow quickly in high-risk foods that are kept at temperatures between 5 °C and 60 °C.  
  • be trained in safe food handling and preparation.

Cross-contamination

Raw food must be kept separate from cooked and ready-to-eat food. Raw food may contain bacteria, which causes food poisoning.

Cross-contamination happens when cooked or ready-to-eat food contacts raw food. Raw food should always be stored below ready-to-eat or cooked food in refrigerators and display cabinets. This way, juices from the raw food cannot drip onto cooked food.

Cross-contamination can also happen if you use dirty knives, chopping boards or other equipment. If possible, don’t use the same equipment when preparing raw food, and cooked and ready-to-eat food. Thoroughly clean and sanitise equipment after each use.

Bacteria can be transferred to food from your hands. Thoroughly wash and dry your hands before handling food, and between handling raw food and cooked or ready-to-eat food. Also use clean, sanitised utensils (tongs, spoons, spatulas) to handle cooked or ready-to-eat food.

Gloves

Disposable gloves can help prevent cross-contamination. The same precautions should be taken when handling raw food, and cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before putting on gloves, and always use fresh gloves.

Change your gloves:

  • at least once every hour
  • if they become contaminated
  • if they tear
  • when switching between handling raw and ready-to-eat foods
  • when changing tasks
  • after taking the rubbish out
  • after sweeping, mopping and cleaning.

Temperature danger zone

The temperature danger zone is between 5 °C and 60 °C. Bacteria grow quickly in high-risk foods that are kept in this temperature range.

Cold food storage

You need to keep cold foods at 5 °C or colder, and keep frozen foods frozen solid during storage at –15 °C or colder. Cool rooms, refrigerators and freezers must have proper thermometers, and temperatures should be checked regularly.

Hot food preparation and display

Hot food must be kept at 60 °C or hotter. Bains-marie and other hot food holders are designed to keep food at this temperature.

Do not use bains-marie and similar equipment to heat food. If this equipment is used for heating food, the food will spend too long in the temperature danger zone.

Before placing food in the bain-marie, make sure the food is thoroughly cooked. Ensure that the centre of the cooked food has reached 75 °C. Most bacteria are killed when food is cooked properly.

Some tips for safely using bains-marie include:

  • preheat bains-marie before use and operate them on the highest temperature setting
  • make sure the temperature of the food does not fall below 60 °C
  • use a clean thermometer to check the temperature of the food
  • do not overfill bain-marie trays, because the temperature of the food could fall below 60 °C.

Cooling food

Food that has been cooked should not be left out to cool for more than 1 hour. As soon as food has cooled, place it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Note that large portions of food cool faster if divided into smaller portions.

Thawing frozen food

Be sure to keep frozen food frozen solid while it is in the freezer.

Thaw food thoroughly before cooking. Bacteria can grow in frozen food while it is thawing, so keep frozen food out of the temperature danger zone. To do this, thaw frozen food on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator (so the juices do not drip onto other foods) and keep it in the fridge until it is ready to be cooked.

If using a microwave oven to thaw food, cook it immediately after defrosting.

If you have to cook food that is still frozen, make sure that the food is cooked right through, and that its core temperature reaches 75 °C.

Do not refreeze food that has been frozen and thawed already. Freezing does not kill bacteria, and live bacteria are still in food when it is thawed again.

Food serving and labelling

Store food in clean, food-grade storage containers that are strong enough for the food they contain. If containers are reusable, wash and sanitise them before using them. Do not reuse containers that are only meant to be used once.

Food labels or tags can carry bacteria. For cooked and ready-to-eat food, use tags or labels on the trays or containers, and not on the food itself. Be sure not to pierce cooked or ready-to-eat food with tags or labels.

When serving food, make sure that all cutlery and crockery is clean and undamaged.

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