Food hygiene basics – preventing food poisoning

Most food poisoning cases are caused by the growth of harmful bacteria on food products that we eat. 

Controlling the growth of bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella is an essential part of food hygiene in kitchens and in businesses which prepare, serve or sell food products to the public. Without the proper measures and the right food hygiene training in place, food can be contaminated with bacteria and if consumed, these products can cause serious illness and possibly even death. 

How bacteria spread 

To prevent bacteria from contaminating food in your kitchen, you must first understand how bacteria grow and spread. They need certain conditions in which to multiply, and these include warmth, moisture, food and time. With all of these conditions exactly right, bacteria can multiply approximately every 20 minutes. Before long, there could be millions and possibly even billions of potentially harmful bacteria in your kitchen, contaminating your food products. 

Most food poisoning cases occur from harmful bacteria in the foods we eat. To understand how to control bacteria we must first understand what bacteria require for growth or to multiply. 

Controlling and killing bacteria through temperature 

Bacteria are not killed when they are frozen – they are simply kept in a state of suspended animation. When chilled, bacteria will multiply far less slowly.  However, the way to kill bacteria is to ensure that food containing it is heated to a temperature of 75°C all the way through. Reheating food more than once can be very dangerous, as it stops and starts the multiplication process and can also make bacteria resistant to heat. 

Preventing contamination 

The best way to prevent the risk of food poisoning is to prevent contamination in the first place. Food hygiene training teaches people who regularly handle food how to prevent contamination through methods such as: 

  1. Washing hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw food 
  1. Storing and cooking all food products at the recommended temperature 
  1. Storing raw and cooked food products well away from each other 
  1. Using thermometers to check the temperature of hot, cooked food 
  1. Preparing raw and cooked food products well away from each other, using separate utensils, chopping boards and equipment, and cleaning everything thoroughly between tasks