Whether you work in hospitality or food manufacturing, good food hygiene is absolutely essential to make sure that the food you serve and provide is safe to eat. Food hygiene breaches can be costly both financially and reputationally, so making sure you have robust food hygiene practices from the start is the best way to protect both your business and your customers.
You’ve probably already heard of the 4 C’s of food safety, but do you know what they are and why they’re so important
What are the 4 Cs of food safety?
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) came up with the 4 Cs to highlight four key areas of food hygiene where you can prevent the most common food safety problems – and they’re as follows:
Let’s take a look at each one in more detail…
Having proper cleaning practices in place is the first step to staying on track with your food hygiene. If you don’t, harmful bacteria can contaminate surfaces, and the risk of cross-contamination grows. You’ll need to regularly clean and disinfect everything you use while cooking and preparing food, including cutting boards, counter tops, knives and of course, your hands.
Did you know? Cleaning items that come into contact with food should be done in two stages – cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning removes dirt, whereas disinfecting kills germs, and it’s important that surfaces are cleaned first, as germs can hide under dirt. Using a detergent or sanitiser and then a disinfectant will remove the dirt so the disinfectant can do its job.
This is probably the most obvious of the 4 – if food isn’t cooked to a high enough temperature, it almost definitely isn’t safe to eat. Time and temperature controls are vital to making sure the food you’re cooking is safe and that all harmful bacteria are destroyed or at least reduced to safe levels. The standard FSA advice is to cook food until it’s reached a core temperature of 75°C for 30 seconds (or 70°C for 2 minutes). There are other time and temperature combinations which you can find on their website here.
Reheating food safely is also important, and food must be reheated quickly to 75°C for 30 seconds (or equivalent). In Scotland, foods must be reheated to 82ºC.
Cross contamination can occur when harmful bacteria are accidentally transferred from one thing to another for example, from raw meat or dirty vegetables to ready to eat foods.
So how do you prevent cross-contamination? Here are just a few quick tips:
- Use separate colour-coded utensils and chopping boards for cooked and uncooked food.
- Use new or clean cloths when cleaning and use a disposable towel for the final wipe after disinfecting surfaces.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces used for preparing food regularly and thoroughly and always between preparing raw/unwashed food and ready to eat foods.
- Staff should wash their hands with hot water and antibacterial liquid soap before handling food and after handling raw/unwashed foods.
It Isn’t just bacteria you need to take into account when it comes to cross-contamination – you also need to avoid cross-contamination – or cross-contact – by allergens. In order to safely cater to those with allergies, you’ll need to have a management system in place to avoid hazards in place and take all the necessary precautions to prevent cross-contact.
Keeping food at safe refrigerated temperatures helps to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying quickly. Food that has to be kept chilled includes
- Food with a ‘use by’ date
- Food that has been cooked but won’t be served immediately
- Food that states to keep it refrigerated on the label
- Ready-to-eat food, e.g., sandwiches or desserts
Your refrigerators need to be cold enough to safely store food. It’s a legal requirement that perishable foods should be kept refrigerated at 8oC or below. However, the best practice is below 5oC. Frozen food should ideally be kept at a temperature at, or below, -18oC.
Chilling doesn’t just mean refrigerator and freezer temperatures. It also includes cooling (another C!) safely and as quickly as possible, following best practices to ensure food is cooled from 55˚C to 20˚C within two hours.
How can I prove I’m doing all of this?
The 4 Cs are a great backbone for food safety, but your full food safety management system must consider many other areas. And luckily for you, Food Alert are here to help. With our cloud-based compliance software, Alert65, you’ll have a comprehensive food safety management system that covers everything you need to make sure the food you prepare is safe – including the 4 Cs.
It’s also a great idea to use a due diligence app – for example, Check65 by Food Alert. This innovative checklist app lets you focus on compliance rather than paperwork by digitising your checks and workflow. From Check65, you can:
- Get the right people on the right jobs
- Keep everything on schedule
- Make simple-to-follow tasks
- Track and resolve problems
Most importantly, Check65 will help protect your business, save precious time, and reassure your people, customers, and Environmental Health that you’re doing everything right.