Good food hygiene starts at home. Many cases of food poisoning are unwittingly caused by inadequate hygiene, which may be caused by not washing your hands after using the toilet, after coming into contact with other people who are ill (especially those suffering with diarrhoea or vomiting) or after playing with pets.
Most food poisoning is caused by bacteria or viruses, and these can be very easily spread from person to person, and even through contact with door handles, handrails and kitchen work surfaces. This is why it is so important to wash your hands before preparing or handling food.
It is also very important not to mix raw foods and cooked foods on the same surface, or by cutting with the same knife. Hands should always be washed before handling food using hot water, soap and drying with a clean towel. Hands should also be washed immediately after handling raw foods and eggs.
In the fridge, foods should be kept cold (buy a thermometer and check that the fridge is always kept around 5° centigrade). Always store raw foods at the bottom of the fridge, below cooked foods and foods that you can eat without cooking. Do not eat food that has passed its use-by date - it might not be safe to eat.
Hot food should always be cooked thoroughly and served piping hot.
This is particularly important with foods containing minced meat, such as burgers and sausages, which should never be eaten if still pink in the middle.
- Always wash hands well.
- Prevent cross-contamination.
- Keep food cold before using.
- Cook food thoroughly and serve hot.
If you are having a barbecue, you should also remember the following:
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food, after touching raw meat and before eating.
- Do not put raw meats near salad or burger buns. Raw meat can contain harmful bacteria and should be separated from cooked and ready-to-eat food.
- Use separate utensils for raw and cooked meat. Never put cooked food on a plate or surface that has been used for raw meat.
- Don't add sauce or marinade to cooked food if it has already been used with raw meat.
- Barbecued food may look thoroughly cooked when it isn't. To be sure that it is safe to eat, check that it's piping hot all the way through, that none of the meat is pink and any juices run clear.
If you are serving a cold buffet including high risk foods containing meat, fish, dairy or egg products you should limit the time at room temperature to no more than four hours. After this time food should be refrigerated or disposed of. If you do put food in the refrigerator don’t let it stand at room temperature again.
Ideally any hot food served should be at 63°C whilst out for service.
Further advice concerning food saety at home can be found on the Food Stadards Agency website.