When it comes to food hygiene you can’t afford to take any risks. Whether you’re a professional chef cooking for a restaurant full of people or you’re at home cooking for the family, you need to know how to handle food safely.
Improperly stored, handled and prepared food can lead to food poisoning, serious illness and, in extreme cases, death. Besides the risk of food poisoning, improper food safety and hygiene can affect the freshness and flavour of ingredients and can lead to unnecessary food spoilage, and this will cost your business money.
That’s why, when it comes to food hygiene and safety, you should always pay close attention to the 4 C’s: Cleaning, cooking, cross-contamination and chilling.
So, let’s find out a little more about the 4 C’s and why they’re important.
Maintaining clean food storage, preparation and cooking areas is a vital part of food safety. Regular and proper cleaning helps to prevent the spread of pathogens, eradicate germs and ensure no other contaminants get into the food.
Good kitchen cleaning habits include:
- Cleaning as you go – This means wiping down and disinfecting surfaces as you go, rather than waiting until service is over to start cleaning. This is especially important when handling raw foods, especially raw poultry, seafood and meat. Hands, utensils and surfaces should be washed and disinfected as soon as you’re finished handling these high-risk ingredients.
- Using the right cleaners for the job – Detergents are designed to dissolve grease, oil and dirt and should be used as washing up liquids. Disinfectants, such as bleach and other antibacterial cleaners, kill germs. Some disinfectants are powerful cleaning products and may be toxic so they must always be used carefully and according to the instructions.
- Detergents then disinfectants – Surfaces should be cleaned first with detergent to remove any grease or dirt, then with disinfectants to kill remaining germs.
- Using different cleaning cloths for different tasks – Separate cloths and buckets should be used for cleaning floors. Disposable clothes are always preferable as they reduce the risk of cross-contamination. If using reusable cleaning cloths or sponges, always wash them in hot water with appropriate detergents and disinfectants. Wring them out and leave them to dry.
Bacteria and germs can exist in food naturally or be introduced through improper food handling or storage. Proper cooking will kill these bacteria and ensure that the food is safe to eat.
Before serving, all food should be completely cooked through to the appropriate temperature. If food is cooked in advance, ensure that it is properly heated before service. Don’t let cooked food sit too long before serving and make sure that all food is served at 63°C or above to prevent the growth of dangerous germs. When using a microwave, always stir the food and let it sit after heating to reduce the chance of cold spots.
Extra care needs to be taken when preparing and serving “raw” dishes, like steak tartare or sashimi, since no cooking is involved.
Cross-contamination occurs when harmful bacteria or pathogens are spread from one food to another. This usually happens when bacteria from raw meat, poultry and fish is transferred to raw ingredients that will be served without cooking.
Cross-contamination usually occurs during food preparation when bacteria is transferred from food to food via improperly washed hands or unclean utensils or prepping surfaces. It can also occur if food isn’t properly stored.
Here are some handy tips to avoid cross-contamination:
- Wash your hands before preparing any food.
- Always wash your hands after handling raw meat, poultry or fish.
- Use specific chopping boards and prepping surfaces for preparing raw meat, fish and poultry and other high-risk ingredients.
- Be aware of the utensils you use when preparing, cooking and serving food. Don’t use the same knife to cut meat and chop ready-to-serve ingredients. Use different utensils for preparing, tasting and serving food. Always wash knives and other utensils as soon as you’re finished with them.
- Regularly wipe down and disinfect all food preparation surfaces, chopping boards and serving and prepping dishes.
- Use disposable cloths for cleaning and regularly wash all dishcloths and tea towels.
- Store food properly in clean containers. Always keep meat, poultry and fish tightly wrapped and stored away from fruit, vegetables and other raw ingredients.
Food storage is a vital component of food safety and hygiene. Whether you’re storing fresh ingredients for later cooking or storing leftovers, proper food storage is vital.
When storing leftovers or pre-cooked food, you should always let them cool completely before putting them in the fridge or freezer. Food will cool down faster if you divide it into smaller portions.
Whether ingredients are fresh or already cooked, food should not be left out for more than one to two hours.
By following the 4 C’s of food safety, you’ll not only ensure safe food service, you’ll also get the best quality and longest life out of your ingredients.