Safe Food Handling

When handling food, you need to be food safe. Food safety is about properly handling, storing, cooking and reheating food to prevent contamination and foodborne illness.

Many foodborne illnesses can be prevented by following these safe food-handling practices: 

  • Cook
  • Clean
  • Chill
  • Separate


Micro-organisms can spread throughout the food preparation area and get on hands, cutting boards, knives and counter tops. Frequent cleaning can keep this from happening. Proper hand washing is one of the most important things you can do to prevent food borne illness. Proper cleaning of food items, food preparation utensils and surfaces are also key preventative activities.

Hand washing

Thoroughly washing hands, using warm soapy water, may eliminate nearly half of all cases of food borne illness.

Hand washing with soap and water is preferred over alcohol based hand sanitizer in food premise areas.

Wash your hands:

  • When you arrive at work;
  • Before preparing, serving or eating food items and particularly after handling raw meats, poultry and raw vegetables;
  • After handling dirty dishes;
  • After you have been to the washroom;
  • After sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose;
  • After mopping the floor or any other cleaning duty;
  • After handling chemicals;
  • After handling any animals.

When preparing and serving food:

  • Use proper utensils to handle food instead of direct contact with your hands.
  • Keep your fingernails short and free from polish. Use a nailbrush to remove any microorganisms under the nails. Do not share nailbrushes.
  • Remove jewellery from your hands and wrists. Jewellery can trap dirt and pathogens. You may unknowingly lose a piece of jewellery in the food.
  • Wipe your hands with disposable paper towels. If you wipe your hands on a cloth or clothing you could end up transferring dirt and bacteria back onto your hands.
  • Do not use gloves in place of proper hand washing.

If you have been vomiting or have diarrhea, don't handle food until at least 24 hours after your symptoms have stopped.
Washing fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Before handling any foods, wash your hands with soap and water. Dry with a paper towel.
  • After removing and discarding the outer leaves of vegetables such as lettuce or cabbage, wash your hands again.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables including those that you peel or cut like melons and oranges.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly in running water that is safe to drink. Use a clean colander or clean sink. Do not use soap or detergent, as they may be absorbed into the food.
  • Use running water to rinse the fruits and vegetables. Do not soak lettuce or cabbage leaves in a sink of water.
  • Use a clean brush to scrub the outside of melons, potatoes, carrots and any other vegetables or fruit that have hard surfaces. Use the brush while rubbing the food item under cold running water.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas as harmful bacteria can live in these areas.
  • Wash, rinse and sanitize the knife, cutting boards and surfaces after slicing produce.
  • Always place washed produce in a clean container.
  • Store fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator at 4℃ (40℉) within two hours of peeling or cutting. Discard the food if it is left at room temperature for two hours or more.
Cleaning and sanitizing equipment

Food is easily contaminated, therefore it is essential that all the equipment and utensils, particularly those that come in contact with food, be regularly cleaned and sanitized. Effective cleaning and sanitizing requires that visible soil be removed and microorganisms, which are invisible be destroyed.

Cleaning and sanitizing are two separate steps.

  1. Cleaning – removes food, dirt and soil and prepares equipment and surfaces for sanitizing.
  2. Sanitizing – reduces the number of micro-organisms to safe level and destroys all micro-organism and spores.

Before using any commercial sanitizer, read the label carefully and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you have any questions regarding the suitability of a product, call Huron Perth Public Health (1.888.221.2133) for recommendations.

  • Wash dishcloths with hot soapy water after each use.
  • Change dishcloths, aprons and towels often.

How Sanitizer and the Contact Time Work

Sanitizers are generally chemicals which kill organic material, especially bacteria and viruses. There are many different types available. Different products claim different levels of effective “kill”. The ability for a disinfectant to “kill” depends on the strength of chemical and the amount of contact time it has with the surface. Contact times generally ranges between 45 seconds to 10 minutes.

Storage and Testing
  1. Keep your sanitizer stored in a locked cupboard away from heat, sunlight and out of the reach of children.
  2. Ensure all bottles containing sanitizer are properly labelled.
  3. Test your sanitizer daily using paper test strips to ensure your solution has the proper strength.
Using Sanitizers

Counters, trays, food contact surfaces, lunch tables and chairs should be cleaned using the following method:

  1. Wash with warm soapy water.
  2. Rinse with hot clean water.
  3. Apply the sanitizer (contact time will depend on manufacturer’s instructions).
  4. Rinse sanitizer with clean water as per manufacturer’s instructions.

Sanitizer concentrations for facilities

Sanitizer Concentrations (Manual Method)

Spraying concentration for food contact surfaces:  
200 ppm (200mg/L)
Spraying minimum contact time: 1 minute
Immersion Concentration for utensils and kitchen cloths: 100 pm (100mg/L)
Immersion minimum contact time: 
45 seconds

Quaternary Ammonium (Quats)
Spraying concentration for food contact surfaces:
400 ppm (400mg/L)
Spraying minimum contact time: Follow manufacturer's instructions
Immersion Concentration for utensils and kitchen cloths:  200 ppm (200 mg/L)
Immersion minimum contact time: 45 seconds

Recommended water temperature for all situations: 24℃

Chlorine/Iodine/Quats test papers to measure the chemical strength must be available.

ppm = parts per million

Bleach Low Level Disinfectant

  • Utensils sanitization, immersion method: 100 ppm for 45 seconds
    2.5 ml (½ tsp) of bleach to 1000 ml (4 cups) of water

Bleach Intermediate Level Disinfectant

  • Daily environmental cleaning, spraying method: 200 ppm for 1 minute
    5 ml (1 tsp) of bleach to 1000 ml (4 cups) of water

Cook – Cook food to the appropriate temperature

A food thermometer must be used to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods. Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that causes illnesses.

Cook food properly:

  • Partially cooking meat, poultry, seafood to reduce future cooking time is not recommended. If you must pre-prepare food for later time or the following day, always thoroughly cook food to its required final cooking temperature. Once cooked it can be properly cooled and stored.
  • Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating.
  • Use a probe thermometer to verify the internal temperature of the food you prepare.
Recommended cooking temperatures
Food typeAction required
Poultry, whole (chicken, turkey) Cook to an internal temperature of 82°C (180°F) for at least 15 seconds

Poultry pieces or ground poultry 

Cook to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) for at least 15 seconds

Stuffing in Poultry

Cook to 74°C (165°F) for at least 15 seconds

Food mixtures

Containing poultry, eggs, meat, fish or other potentially hazardous food

Cook to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) for at least 15 seconds

Reheated food (leftovers)

Reheat to original cook temperature for at least 15 seconds, except whole chicken can be reheated to 74°C (165°F) for at least 15 seconds

Pork, Lamb, Veal, Beef (whole cuts)

Cook to an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F) for at least 15 seconds

Ground meat

Cook to 71°C (160°F) for at least 15 seconds


Cook to 70°C (158°F) for at least 15 seconds


Cook to 74°C (165°F) for at least 15 seconds

Cold holding

4°C (40°F) or less

Hot holding

60°C (140°F) or more


-18°C (0°F) 

Chill – Store food in the cold

Bacteria multiply fastest at temperatures between 4℃ (40℉) and 60℃ (140℉). This temperature range is known as the Danger Zone.

Many food borne illnesses are the result of time and temperature abuse.

Examples of time and temperature problems include the following:

  • Improper internal temperature (whether hot held or cold held) of food when delivered. This is a very important step to monitor when food is catered to your centre;
  • Inadequate cooking temperature;
  • Improper thawing;
  • Preparation of food items left at room temperature for extended periods of time;
  • Inadequate holding of heat;
  • Inadequate cooling;
  • Inadequate reheating.

Food products which can support bacterial growth such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, gravies and custards are capable of supporting the growth of pathogenic organism. These kinds of food are called potentially hazardous food and must not be left in the Danger Zone more than 2 hours.

Discard potentially hazardous food immediately if you suspect the food has been left at room temperature more than 2 hours.

To keep foods out of the Danger Zone:

  • Set the fridge temperature to less than 4℃. Keep a fridge thermometer in every fridge to routinely monitor the temperature. This includes fridges in infant rooms that are used to store baby bottles and baby food.
  • Record the fridge and freezer temperatures on a daily basis and keep the temperature logs for a minimum of one year.
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Thawing is to be done under proper refrigeration or cold running water. A microwave may also be used, however food which is thawed using this method must be immediately cooked.
  • Large cuts of meat (e.g. whole bird, roasts, etc) which are to be cooled must be broken down in to small portions and stored in shallow dishes so they can be chilled quickly.

If your centre is serving food provided by a catering service, ensure the food is received either properly cold held at 4℃ (40℉) or lower or properly hot held at 60℃ (140℉). Food is to be maintained at the proper temperature until it is served. Check the temperature with an accurate thermometer and record in a log book.

Separate – Store raw meat separately

Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices separate from cooked and ready to eat food during storage and preparation. Food items which are generally safe can become contaminated because they have come in contact with a surface, utensil, hand or piece of equipment which is contaminated. This is an indirect contamination known a cross contamination.

Some examples of surfaces, utensils and equipment which may cause cross contamination are:

  • cutting boards
  • slicers
  • mixers
  • grinders
  • knives
  • tongs
  • general serving utensils
  • food preparation tables
  • testing thermometers

Minimize cross contamination:

  • Prevent raw meat juices from dripping onto other foods in the fridge by storing them near the bottom of the fridge.
  • Place washed produce in a clean, food grade container with a lid.
  • Keep foods covered.
  • Ensure ready to eat foods are stored above and well away from raw meats and unwashed produce.
  • Use separate utensils and cutting boards for raw foods and cooked food items.
  • Ensure all utensils, equipment and food contact surfaces are cleaned and disinfected after every use.

Prevent pests

Proper food storage practices and garbage handling will help to prevent rodent and insect infestations.

How to Prevent Pests

  • Screen all doors and windows and maintain in good repair.
  • Fill holes with steel wool or caulking especially around pipes and drains.
  • Rotate food stocks regularly to prevent insect infestations.
  • Inspect all foods when they are delivered to your centre. Do not accept any products if you see insects.
  • Clean all food spills immediately.
  • Store food products in insect and rodent-proof containers.
  • Store garbage away from the building in bins that are not accessible.
  • Use poisons or traps as little as possible and with care to prevent injury.

Watch for Signs of Pest Problem

  • Watch for empty egg cases, dead cockroaches, droppings, and musty odour.
  • Chewing marks on cupboards or baseboards in areas where you store food.
  • Chewing marks on food packaging.
  • Feces (droppings) in cupboards, drawers or other areas of the centre.

If an infestation occurs, hire a licensed pest control operator to eliminate the problem. Arrange for service at a time when children are not present.

If Poisonous Bait is Needed

  • It must only be used and handled by a licensed pest control company.
  • It must only be used outside of the food premise.
  • It must be placed in secure covered bait traps.