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Basic hygiene practices for food preparation and cooking

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Basic hygiene practices for food preparation and cooking

Every day people get ill from the food they eat. Micro-organisms including bacteria, viruses and moulds found in food can cause food poisoning, leading to a whole host of unpleasant symptoms, such as stomach pains, diarrhoea and vomiting. Food poisoning can sometimes lead to gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and bowel), or more serious health problems such as blood poisoning (septicaemia) and kidney failure. Anyone can get food poisoning but some people, including babies, children and older people, are more likely to have serious symptoms. This is why this is vital as in the Seaview nursing home the residents are frail older people and several also are in poor general health.

They are many basic hygiene practices for food preparation and cooking. This includes:

  • Surfaces
  • Equipment
  • Sell by dates
  • Food
  • Cooking
  • storing


Food poisoning affects thousands of people every year and many of these cases go unreported. The exact numbers of cases of food related illness that occur each year are unknown. This is because many people do not seek the help of their doctor when their doctor when they develop symptoms. Food poisoning can be extremely dangerously especially for the very young, older service users and those who are ill or infirm. It is therefore important that care workers actions do not increase this problem. To prevent contamination of food it is necessary to follow recognised hygiene procedures to make sure that risks are kept to a minimum.

Cleaning and disinfection chemicals are available to maintain the correct standards of cleanliness. Usually these chemicals are added to water to make a cleaning solution. Some come ready to use in spray or aerosol bottles for convenience. Substances used for cleaning food preparation areas fall into three categories:

  • Detergents – are chemicals that will dissolve grease and assist the removal of food debris and dirt.  Detergents do not kill bacteria.
  • Disinfectants – are chemicals designed to destroy bacteria and reduce them to a safe level.  However disinfectants are not effective at removing grease and dirt’s.  Disinfectants have a very strong smell and have the potential to taints foods and if in contact with surfaces that food is prepared on extra care should be taken in rinsing with hot (above 82C) water.
  • Sanitizers– are a combination of both detergents and disinfectants and are designed to kill bacteria and remove dirt and grease at the same time.


Disinfection can also be carried effectively using heat i.e. using hot water (above 82C).  Chemicals can be used in addition to this process however are less effective where hot water is not available or a preliminary clean had not been carried out.

The combination of the above chemicals and very hot water provide an effective way of keeping surfaces clean.  Any work surfaces that is used for food preparation must be strong, durable, easily cleaned, resistance to stain or to absorbing liquids and not easily damaged.

In professional food areas stainless steel tables are used for food preparation activities. They are usually on wheels which have brakes so that they can be moved easily which allows for ease of cleaning. It is vital that work surfaces are kept clean and bacteria free. The clean as you go method should be used. This means that all equipment and surfaces should be cleaned as soon as they have been used. This describes cleaning that is carried out as soon as the mess is created, the aim of this is to prevent cross contamination and to keep work areas clean and tidy. Examples of this might be Washing and sanitising of a chopping board straight after use and Cleaning up a floor spillage immediately after it has happened. Any spills should also be mopped up immediately they occur. Work surfaces should be left clean and clear when work has finished.  

The 5 stages of cleaning work are:

  1. Remove food particles and spillages using a suitable damp cloth
  2. Use a hot water and detergent solution to remove any grease and debris
  3. Rinse thoroughly with very hot water (82C)
  4. Use a suitable disinfectant to reduce bacteria to a safe level
  5. Final rinse with hot water and dry using paper towels (or allow to air dry)


Only clean equipment if you have been trained to do so. This is especially important where the equipment has sharp cutting surfaces and or moving parts that are run by electricity. Care should be also taken with equipment that is hot or generates a lot of heat, for example cookers and deep fat fryers

When training has been done some basic steps should be followed when cleaning equipment. The basic steps are:

  • Disconnect the equipment from the power source
  • Take extra care when removing any blades
  • Remove all waste food
  • Thoroughly wash and sanitize all parts
  • Reassemble the equipment taking care to fit all components correctly in case they fly off during use
  • Sanitize again those parts that will come into contact with food
  • Ensure that all safety guards are refitted correctly.

All other small items of equipment like pots, pans, cutlery, plates and glassware can be cleaned in the usual way. This may either be in a dishwasher or by hand using detergent and hot water.

Sell by dates

Perishable is foods that are likely to go off quickly. They normally have a sell by and use by date on them. Selling food after its sell by date is an offence. The food can be used up to and including the use by date. For an example a carton of milk may have a sell by date till the 14th march and the use by date may be the 16th march. The milk can be used on the 16th and before but not after. Most other foods have a best before day; this indicates the month up to which it will be in its best condition for eating.

Some foods don’t have to require a date for example fresh fruits & vegetable’s and meat from the butcher.


It is vital that certain precautions are taken when providing food for service users. Washing of the hands is vital so hands must be washed:

  • Before entering a food area
  • After using the lavatory
  • Between handling different types of food such as raw meat an cooked
  • Before and after touching foods
  • After coughing into the hands or using a handkerchief
  • After touching face and hair
  • After carrying out cleaning or handling rubbish

It is essential that this is done because many bacteria live on the surface of the skin. Many of these are harmless however some can cause illness. Bacteria can be acquired from other sources and can contaminate food. Handling raw mean and poultry and then handling cooked meat is very dangerous unless hands are thoroughly washed in between.

Touching the nose or coughing and sneezing over food or preparation areas should be avoided. This is because personal cleanliness is essential or bacteria will be transferred to the food. Also avoid touching the food with hands and glove wearing or using of the tong when possible is a good thing to do. This is because the less hands are in direct contact with food, the less chance there is of contamination. Touching dishes or cutlery that is to come into contact with food should also be avoided. This is because this cuts down the transfer of bacteria.

Keeping the hair covered with either a hat or net and not combing hair in the food area should also be done as hair and scalp can carry bacteria that can fall into the food. Also keeping cuts and grazes covered with brightly coloured dressing as wounds are infected with bacteria and if the dressing comes off it can be easily found.

Not smoking in the food areas is vital as it is against the law and can contaminate food. Also when ill food handling should not be done. This is vital because a person who is ill can infect food. Another thing that should be done is wearing clean protective clothing as there are fewer bacteria on clean clothes.


Heat kills bacteria and this is why food must be cooked thoroughly. Cooking food at temperatures over 70°C will kill off any bacteria. If food isn't cooked at a high enough temperature, bacteria can still survive. Take special care that you cook meat all the way through. Unless you’re cooking steak or lamb and beef joints rare, it shouldn’t be pink in the middle. Use a clean skewer to pierce the meat. If it’s cooked properly, the juices will run clear. If you’re cooking meat so it’s rare, make sure that it’s properly sealed (browned) on the outside. Large pieces of meat take longer to heat up to the centre. The need for sufficiently high temperatures reaching the centre is very important.

Always re-heat pre-cooked food thoroughly and only do so once. When cooking food in the microwave, stir it well from time to time to ensure that it’s evenly cooked all the way through.

It is bad practice to mix previously cooked food with newly cooked food. Topping up soup lowers the temperature and increases the risk of bacteria growing. It is much safer to make up food in smaller quantises as and when it is needed. Eggs can carry salmonella, so to safeguard service users, eggs should be cooked for around seven minutes at 70˚C. High risks foods such as eggs and chicken that are eaten immediately after cooking are safe providing the temperature is high enough. If there is going to be a gap in time between the foods being cooked and being eaten, it must be kept hot. Equipment should be used to hold the food at a temperature of 63˚C or above. This is could be a heated tray, trolley or service counter.

When using this type of equipment; heat the equipment to at least 63˚C before loading the food, ensure the food is already fully cooked and at a minimum temperature of 63˚C and never use the equipment to heat up cold or partially heated food.

Reheating food can increase the risk of food poisoning. Some food handlers often make the mistake of thinking that because food has already been cooked it is free of bacteria. They believe that is only needs warming up. If it happens, bacteria had ideal conditions for growth for example food, warmth and liquid.

Guidelines for food that needs reheating is as follows:

  • Don’t get the food out of the refrigerator too soon and leave it lying it around
  • Handle as little as possible and keep it covered
  • Divide larger items into smaller portions where possible
  • Heat the food to at least 70˚C as its core
  • Serve quickly following reheating
  • Never reheat cooked food more than once
  • If reheating ready-made meals from a shop, follow the manufactures instructions in addition to the above advice.


If you don’t follow the storage guidelines that come with your food, you could be letting yourself in for real problems. Storing food in the wrong place or at the wrong temperature can lead to the growth of bacteria. This means that even one piece of food left out for a couple of hours can contain millions of bacteria as bacteria flourish at body temperature which is 37˚C. The reason foods are stored in a refrigerator is because bacteria and viruses can’t multiply below 6˚C. The correct temperature for a refrigerator is between zero and 5˚C. Chilled foods should be put away quickly but don’t overcrowd the refrigerator as it raises the temperature. With cooked food, let steam evaporate first before covering and placing in the refrigerator. Always keep the refrigerator clean by washing the inside surfaces with warm soapy water. Never thaw then refreeze food. To slowly defrost, take the dish out of the freezer and leave it in the refrigerator overnight rather than on the counter top. Place meats on a plate on the bottom shelf. When defrosting with the microwave, cook the dish immediately. Never freeze food that has gone beyond its use by date and remove old food regularly.

Keeping the refrigerator at the right temperature helps prevent bacteria from multiplying. The correct temperature for a refrigerator is below 5˚C and a freezer and should kept at minus 18˚C.  Check both the refrigerator and freezer regularly with a reliable thermometer. To maintain a constant temperature, keep the door shut whenever possible.

When storing food in a fridge:

  • Don’t allow the juice from the raw meat, fish and poultry to spill or drip onto any other foods.
  • Put fruit and vegetable’s items into the salad drawer
  • Keep milk and fruit juices on the bottom rack in the door
  • Place dairy products , dressings, spreads, sauces, cream and convince foods on the centre and top shelves
  • Store raw meat, fish and poultry on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. this prevents cross contamination as the blood as the other liquids from the meat and fish cannot drip down onto other foods
  • Cooked foods should be kept on the top shelves of the refrigerator
  • Mayonnaise and ketchup should be kept in the refrigerator after opening
  • Never place food in an open tin in the refrigerator. Use secure containers instead and throw the food out after two or three days
  • Keep seafood either in the refrigerator or in the freezer until you are ready to prepare it

Cross contamination occurs when food is put in contact with other contaminated foods. An example of this could be the blood from a piece of chicken dripping onto a plate of cooked food. Cross contamination means that the bacteria or other pathogens have been transferred from an infected food item. They either become infected or contaminated.

If food looks or smells in any way, throw it out. A sure sign of spoilage is mould. Most mouldy foods should be binned along with leaking cartons and food which has gone past its use by date.

Most frozen foods should be thrown out after three to six month’s. When storing food in the freezer, remove it from the wrapping and place it in a labelled and dated freezer bag. Remember to expel all the air from the bag before sealing it.

If a power cut has occurred then foods that have started to defrost should be thrown out. If the power comes back on and if there is any doubt about which foods have defrosted and refrozen, the food should be thrown away.

Food that does not need keeping cold should be kept in a sealed container in a cool dry cupboard or larder. It should never be stored on the floor. Vegetables can normally be kept in a cool, dry place in loose bags or racks but not in plastic bags. This makes them sweat and rot quicker.  

Saffiyyah Karolia                                                                               Task 3 Unit 4

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