Learn how germs that can cause food poisoning spread around the kitchen and how you can help protect your family with simple cleaning and disinfection.
Safe Food Preparation
Following proper food safety practices is important for the health of your family. Because you cannot see, taste or smell illness-causing germs, correct food storage and preparation is necessary to keep food safe. These basic steps will help you to reduce the threat of food-borne illness or ‘food poisoning’.
Germs picked up on the hands after handling raw food can easily be transferred to other foods and surfaces.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling any food and immediately after handling any raw food, such as meat, poultry, fish or eggs.
- Do not use tea towels to dry your hands.
- Do not sneeze or cough near food.
- Avoid preparing food for others if you are ill.
- Keep any cuts and sores on your hands covered while preparing food.
To help stop germs spreading, it is important to regularly clean the surfaces used for food preparation and those surfaces that you often touch with your hands, such as the fridge door handle, cupboard handles, taps, waste bins and door handles.
Clean and Disinfect Food Preparation Surfaces
You need to clean and disinfect food contact surfaces before putting any food on them and immediately after contact with any raw food (e.g. poultry, meat, fish and eggs). After touching raw food you should also clean and disinfect any surfaces that you may have contaminated with germs (e.g. fridge door handle and taps).
- You can decontaminate small items such as crockery, cutlery and pans by washing them thoroughly in hot water and detergent, then rinsing them with clean running water.
- Large or fixed items that you cannot rinse under a tap, such as work surfaces, taps and handles, need to be cleaned and then disinfected using a kitchen disinfecting product.
Clean and Disinfect Hand-Contact Surfaces
Surfaces in the kitchen such as fridge door handles, cupboard handles, taps, waste bins and door handles can easily become contaminated with germs, especially if hand hygiene is poor. You should clean and disinfect these hand-contact surfaces regularly to ensure they don’t become a hygiene hazard.
Cross-contamination happens when germs spread from one food to another, directly or via surfaces or hands.
Always separate raw and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, and storing.
- In the refrigerator, keep washed salad items in the salad compartment, cooked and ready-to-eat food at the top, and raw meat covered at the bottom.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean, safe water before using them.
- Never place cooked or ready-to-eat food on a plate or surface that previously held raw food (e.g. uncooked meat, poultry, fish and eggs).
- Avoid contact between raw foods and ready-to-eat foods by using separate chopping boards and knives. Try designating one board for fresh fruit and vegetables, and one for raw meats, poultry, and seafood.
- After use, clean and disinfect chopping boards.
- Wash knives, dishes and utensils thoroughly with hot, soapy water after use, then rinse thoroughly in clean safe water.
Preparing Food Safely
Cook Food Thoroughly
You need to cook food thoroughly to kill any germs in it, and reheat food properly to kill any germs that have multiplied in it since it was cooked.
- Cook food thoroughly and evenly, so that it is steaming hot all the way through.
- Only reheat food once, and check food is steaming hot all the way through.
Chill Food Promptly
Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers within two hours or sooner.
- Put any frozen food you buy in the freezer straight away.
- Keep salads, perishable foods and eggs in the fridge.
- Set the fridge at 5ºC or below and check the temperature regularly.
- Keep the freezer at or below minus 18ºC.
- If cooked food is not going to be eaten immediately, cool it and put it in the fridge within 2 hours.
- Use up any leftovers within 48 hours.
- Thoroughly defrost food before cooking (unless the instructions say cook from frozen).
- Ideally, defrost frozen food in the fridge.
- Once food has defrosted, keep it in the fridge and use it within 24 hours.
- Only defrost food in the microwave if it is going to be eaten straight away.
- Never refreeze previously frozen food.
- Check use-by dates and throw away food if the date has passed.
- Check labels to see if you need to put foods in the fridge after opening.
- Put new supplies at the back of the fridge or freezer and bring older items to the front, to remind you to use them first.
Use Safe Water
It is essential that the water you use for drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene is clean and free from germs.
- Choose a water source that is protected from contamination.
- Use only clean, safe water for drinking and food preparation.
- Choose an effective method to disinfect your water, such as water purification tablets.
- Use covered water containers that are fitted with a tap or pouring spout so that you do not need to dip your hands or other vessels into the water.
- Minimise the time that water is stored before you use it.
- Empty and clean water containers regularly.
You need to launder clothes and fabrics regularly to help stop germs and odours building up in them.
What You Need to Know
Fabrics that are soiled with body fluids (e.g. vomit and faeces), cleaning cloths, underclothes, towels and items used around food, can carry lots of germs. The germs can easily transfer to your hands and to surfaces around your home. If you don’t launder these items properly, any germs that are left behind can multiply quickly, especially if the laundry remains damp for a while. The germs may spread to other items in the wash, from the washing machine to the fabrics in the next load, and to the hands of those who handle the damp laundry.
It is really important to launder effectively to destroy all the germs and then dry your laundry promptly. Washing fabrics at high temperature (60ºC or above) will usually destroy most germs. However, if the fabric is heavily soiled, or you prefer not to wash it at a high temperature, you will need to add a suitable laundry disinfectant.
|Risk||Fabric||Effective laundering method*|
||Machine-wash with laundry detergent at 90ºC, or at 60ºC using a laundry disinfectant. Use the pre-wash cycle. Launder heavily soiled items as a separate load.|
||Machine-wash with laundry detergent at 60ºC (or above), or at 40-60ºC using a suitable laundry disinfectant. Launder fabrics used around food as a separate load.|
||Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If a low temperature (below 40ºC) is necessary, consider using a laundry disinfectant to help destroy any germs and odours.|
* Always check the manufacturer’s washing instructions. You may have to discard soiled items that cannot withstand a hot wash.
Laundry Hygiene Tips
- Run a hot wash (at least 60ºC) once a week to stop germs and odours building up in the washing machine.
- Keep dirty laundry away from food preparation surfaces.
- Wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.
- Dry your laundry promptly to help prevent any residual germs multiplying.
- Hand-rinse heavily soiled items as this may contaminate sinks and taps. Remove solid waste (e.g. vomit and faeces) into the toilet then machine-wash.
- Overload the washing machine.
You can use antibacterial surface cleaning wipes, an antibacterial multi-purpose cleaner, or appropriate disinfectant to clean and disinfect kitchen surfaces.
It is advisable to clean your refrigerator regularly. Wipe up any spills promptly, then clean and disinfect any contaminated surfaces. Remember to use cleaners or disinfectants that do not leave an odour, and don’t forget to clean and disinfect the fridge handle and door seals regularly as well. Check the fridge manufacturer’s manual for advice on cleaning.
Sinks need cleaning regularly using products that can remove soap scum and scale. If the sink is contaminated (e.g. with germs from raw food) you need to clean and disinfect promptly. Since you cannot clean drains very easily, you may need to apply a suitable disinfectant regularly to reduce germs and odours.
Empty, clean and disinfect your kitchen bin regularly. Use a bin with a lid as keeping your rubbish covered will help limit the possibility of an insect or rodent infestation.
Remove food debris from tables and high chairs, and clean and disinfect them before meals.
If possible, replace kitchen carpets with hard surface flooring, such as tiles, linoleum, or laminate. These are more hygienic because they are easier to clean and do not collect debris in the same way that carpets can.
Always check product labels to make sure products are suitable for a surface before use.