How do I protect food against contamination?

Clean work environment and tools

Food premises must maintain a good level of cleanliness and hygiene. They ensure that the handling and storage of food is hygienic, and that the food is safe for consumers.

To maintain a good level of hygiene, you must draw up a cleaning plan to be included in your own-check plan and followed by all members of staff. This plan must take into account different types of areas and the level of cleanliness required for each. For example, a restaurant kitchen that handles raw materials and prepares meals must maintain a better level of hygiene than the customer dining area.

A detailed cleaning plan describes the methods and tools for cleaning each area of the premises. In addition, the plan details who is responsible for cleaning and for monitoring performance. The cleaning plan also details the procedure for ensuring sufficient washing of dishes and other containers.

What is cross-contamination and why should it be avoided?

Contamination means the presence of unwanted impurities in a material. Foods may also be contaminated, which can cause them to be harmful to health. Food contamination may occur in a variety of situations. For example, food that is dropped outside on the ground can be contaminated by microbes in the soil.

Cross-contamination means the transfer of microbes or unwanted ingredients from one food to another, by means of direct contact or indirectly through hands, tools or other means. As this kind of indirect contamination is usually invisible, it may be difficult to detect. For this reason, it is crucial that food premises follow hygienic work practices that prevent cross-contaminations. These work practices can be included as instructions in your own-check plan. The instructions should be available for reading and used by all members of staff.

Examples of cross-contamination can be found here.

Food storage and storage facilities

As a food industry entrepreneur, you must plan the storage of food to ensure that all foodstuffs are stored at the correct temperature and are free from contamination during storage. In practice, your activities may require different storage facilities for different foodstuffs:

  • dry storages
  • cold storages
  • separate cold storages for fresh fish and meat
  • freezer storages

Foods may not become contaminated during storage. All foodstuffs must be protected during storage, and fresh fish and meats must be kept separate from other foods. It is recommended that raw fish and meat are placed in storage so as to prevent contact with other foodstuffs at all times. You must also ensure that foods do not come into contact with any substances that cause allergies or intolerances that they should not include. For example, gluten-free products may not come into contact with gluten-containing flour or products.

Foods must be used according to the so-called first in, first out principle. By this principle, the oldest foods in storage must be used first. Stored foods should be arranged in a way that ensures that the oldest foods can be easily taken out first.

Different storage temperatures of foods

Some foodstuffs stored cold require a specific temperature to ensure their safety and quality. For example, fresh fish must be stored at a lower temperature than many other foods, such as milk, cheese or chopped vegetables. For this reason, it may be useful to reserve and adjust separate refrigeration appliances for different foodstuffs. As a simple example, fish and meat can be stored in a single refrigerator set at +3 degrees, and all other foods in a second refrigerator set a +6 degrees Celsius.

Things to remember:

  • Keep your premises clean and tidy. Follow the cleaning plan.
  • Use different tools for different raw materials, such as cutting boards and knives.
  • Ensure good hand hygiene between tasks. Hands must be washed regularly!
  • Keep materials and products that can cause allergies and intolerances separate from each other and from foods for which they are not intended.
  • Keep raw meat and fish separate from other foods.
  • Store all raw materials and foods at the appropriate temperature.
Page last updated 3/19/2019