The Top 10 Food Safety Mistakes to Avoid

The Top 10 Food Safety Mistakes to Avoid

It’s an often overlooked fact that running a food business comes with great personal responsibility. By providing food to your customers, you are taking on a duty of care to keep them safe from harm. A food safety or hygiene slip up could cost you your job and your business its reputation, but it could cost someone their health – or even their life.

With the threat of criminal prosecution and imprisonment as a worst-case scenario result of food safety failures, the importance of maintaining scrupulous hygiene practices for your business can’t be overstated.

Even outside of commercial kitchens, we are all aware that we should be as hygienic as possible to prevent ourselves and our families from getting ill. COVID-19 has (hopefully) highlighted the importance of handwashing and personal hygiene for everyone. When running a food business though, singing happy birthday whilst washing your hands and sneezing into your elbow doesn’t quite cut the mustard.What are the top 10 food safety mistakes to avoid?

The following common food safety and hygiene mistakes can have serious health implications and must be avoided.

  1. Not cooling food before it is refrigerated

    Putting hot food in the fridge before cooling it down can raise the temperature of your fridge, create condensation and risk the environment of other refrigerated foods. Use methods to quickly reduce the temperature of cooked food before refrigeration – this usually means splitting large quantities into smaller portions, using a blast chiller, standing pans in cold or iced water or running vegetables or pasta under cold water or ice baths to cool it down.

  2. Leaving food out for too long

    Bacteria grow in the food temperature “danger zone” of between 5°C and 63°C. When chilled below 8°C, bacteria growth significantly slows down and when cooked to above 60°C bacteria begin to be killed. When food is left out of the fridge, the temperature is usually between these two figures, allowing bacteria to multiply. The golden rule is never to leave food at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.

  3. Not replacing cloths and sponges often enough

    Cloths can be one of the most common sources of bacteria in a kitchen. Wherever possible, use disposable cloths and dispose of them after each use. Don’t rely on your eyes to tell you if a cloth is dirty – you cannot see microscopic organisms or traces of contaminants without powerful microscopes. Wash, disinfect and dry cloths in between uses.

  4. Not using different utensils for raw and cooked food

    It’s essential that you use different boards, plates and utensils for raw and cooked foods and that they are washed thoroughly with hot, soapy water to avoid contaminating ready-to-eat food with bacteria and other organisms from uncooked foods, particularly meat and fish.

  5. Washing Poultry or Meat

    Washing meat is NOT required as it doesn’t do anything beneficial and can spread bacteria to sinks, surfaces and utensils and result in cross-contamination.

  6. Failing to wash fruit and vegetables

    Fruit and veg straight from the supplier might look nice and clean, but you have no way of seeing microorganisms or chemicals that might be present. Many outbreaks of foodborne illness have come from contaminated fruit and vegetables. It’s important to clean fruit and vegetables even if you are going to discard the peel, because microorganisms on the surface can get inside during the peeling and cutting process.

  7. Not checking that foods have reached minimum cooking temperatures

    Just because meat looks and feels like it’s cooked doesn’t mean the temperature inside has reached the point where harmful bacteria are killed. Test all meat with a meat thermometer to ensure it is safely cooked.

  8. Cross-Contamination

    The most common cause of foodborne illness is cross-contamination, where organisms from uncooked food are accidentally transferred to cooked food, surfaces, utensils or packaging. It’s so important to have robust safety systems that avoid cross-contamination. Separate, don’t cross-contaminate.

  9. Inadequate Handwashing

    By now, we’re all aware of how important hand hygiene is in preventing foodborne illness. As tedious as it may be, washing hands between every stage of a food preparation task is totally necessary. Touch the fridge? Wash your hands. Picked up the knife you used to cut meat? You guessed it, wash your hands.

  10. Preparing food when unwell

    Generally, if you’re ill with any kind of communicable disease then you should not be in the kitchen. Food businesses should not encourage presenteeism from employees with illnesses and should make it clear to staff and managers that anyone displaying symptoms should not work with food.

Avoiding these common pitfalls should be a priority for all food business owners. Food hygiene training is an integral part of your business’s commitment to keeping your customers safe and well, keep you and your employees safe from legal action and your business thriving. To find out more about the food safety and hygiene training you might need, get in touch with our friendly team.