The Four Principles of Good Food Hygiene

In the field of food safety and proper food handling, there are four recognized principles by which the food industry regulates how it relates to all food hygiene issues.

These principles work together to cover all critical areas where food contamination occurs.

By observing these principles, we greatly reduce the hygiene risks involved in food handling and consequent food contamination.

The four golden rules of food hygiene are:

Buy food from a safe source.
Prevent bacteria from entering your food.
Prevent the multiplication (or growth of) bacteria in your food.
Eliminates bacteria on food, utensils and work surfaces

Rule #1)

Buy food from a safe source.

Make sure to buy food only from known and reputable suppliers. It is important to check that all foods are within their expiration date and are kept in proper conditions in the store.

Serving counters must be kept completely clean, as well as machinery such as mincers, knives, and slicers.

Freezers, refrigerators and coolers must display their temperatures and must be set to less than 5°C for chilled products and -18°C or less for frozen products.

All packaging must be original and not tampered with or counterfeited. This may indicate that the product is not the original contents and is produced by a fraudulent company. Do not under any circumstances buy these products as they threaten your health.

All reputable retail businesses selling food items must display updated licenses from all required regulatory authorities as required by law. Check with your local authority to find out what licenses a food store or supermarket must have to operate in your area.

Rule #2)

Prevent bacteria from entering your food

Yes! This is the speed to tell you a little bit about bacteria and how they reproduce.

All bacteria begin to multiply when given the right conditions. The conditions they need are,

a) A temperature over 10 degrees Celsius (some say 5 degrees).

b) a food source. Bacteria break down all organic matter into sugars and use the basic food molecule, the monosaccharide glucose, in their metabolism.

Bacteria need only 20 minutes to adjust to a new food source. For example, suppose a bacterium that was eating a sugary food suddenly finds itself on fish, the transition the bacterium needs to be able to digest the new food source is twenty minutes.

c) a source of water.

When the right conditions are given, the bacteria begin to multiply at a rate of one division of the entire colony every 20 minutes. Example: If you had 1,000 bacteria on a piece of food to begin with, after 20 minutes you would have 1 million bacteria. In the next twenty minutes the number will rise to a million bacteria. After that the numbers became simply astronomical!

The reason to prevent bacteria from getting into your food in the first place is to prevent cross-contamination.

Cross-contamination means contact with any food source with any form of contamination from another source. This could be other food (raw or processed), packaging, garbage, polluted water or air, unclean or sick humans, animal life, or unclean tools and surfaces.

In good professional kitchens there are different refrigerators for different functions. For example, there is a refrigerator for dairy products, another for cold fresh vegetables, and another for cooked food.

As homeowners we don’t usually have this luxury so it is advised to keep cooked foods in the upper part of the fridge and raw materials in the lower part in closed containers. In this way the risk of contamination is greatly reduced.

Eggs should especially be kept in a closed container because they contain many bacteria on their outer shell.

Remember to wash your hands and arms up to the elbow before preparing food. Cut the salads first and then move on to the foods that will be cooked making sure to wash the board well before moving on to different types of food.

Wash all surfaces before and after working with a good detergent. Put a wash cloth in the washing machine after each use. Always start with a clean cloth.

Rule #3)

Prevent the growth of bacteria in your food.

As mentioned above, bacteria need the right conditions to divide themselves. To do this they need a) the right temperature, b) food and c) water.

Thus, food should be stored at the lowest possible temperature to keep bacteria inactive. Also, do not allow your food to come into contact with water before you cook it. By dissolving food in water, we’re giving bacteria a head start.

Cook your food as soon as possible and after it is cooked keep it at a temperature of at least 70°C until it is served.

If you have to refrigerate your food, don’t put hot food in large containers in the refrigerator. Divide them into smaller containers and don’t stack them in a way that doesn’t allow air to circulate around the containers. Once it cools down, freeze it if possible.

When thawing food, do it in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Remember, it’s better to plan a meal a couple of days ahead of time than to have to take sick leave from work in bed.

Once thawed, cook as quickly as possible.

The best way to kill bacteria is to cook your food in a pressure cooker. In this way, the combination of the increased temperature and the increased atmospheric pressure will completely sterilize the food.

Rule #4).

Eliminates bacteria on food, utensils and work surfaces.

This rule speaks for itself. Don’t let them grow in your kitchen.

Cook as quickly as possible. Foods that cannot be cooked if not eaten within a short period of time should be frozen.

Alternative forms of food preservation such as dehydration, smoking, canning, sterilization, concentrating, and pickling are alternative ways to prevent the development and destruction of bacteria in food.

Surroundings are also a source of food contamination, so you should wash your work surfaces after each use with hot water and detergent.

In professional kitchens, all work areas must be covered with stainless steel. In this way, the surface can be cleaned with special grease and limescale removing chemicals that contain either a caustic soda base or a phosphoric acid base. For safety’s sake, remember to never mix chemicals; Especially acids and alkalis such as caustic soda and phosphoric acid.

Likewise, wash all utensils with very hot water and laundry detergent. The water should be so hot that you need gloves to withstand the heat.

Store pots, pans, dishes, cutlery and other utensils in a clean, dry place. Make sure it is dry before storing it away. Use a clean dish towel each time. Store it upside down. Keep all storage areas clean. Check again for signs of insects.

Preheat crockery to 80°C before serving. This will prevent further contamination.

These are the four principles of good food hygiene. Keep a close eye on them and the chances of you or your customers getting sick will be greatly reduced.

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