Thursday, 1 August 2013

Food safety 101

If you think a chef only just cooks and plates up the food then think again. Safety is vital with food and cleanliness. Lack of safety means food poisoning and can make the business lose money due to declining amount of customers. As more people go out and eat, food safety is vital.

The most common word in this topic is cross contamination which means bacteria from a dirty source can transfer to clean source.

The worker

Every employee (both chef and waiter) must have clean clothing and bathe daily to keep up the good hygiene. Wearing clothing from outside to work can transfer bacteria to the food and there are establishments that have changing rooms and lockers. Not only should the clothing be clean but also be light coloured to see clearly whether is it needs washing or not. A professional chef has clean ironed uniform unlike a lazy worker with dirty uniform. Dirty uniform can contaminate the food.

The hands carry the most bacteria as it is used to touch EVERYTHING so it must be washed at all times. Most establishments have a hand wash basin that provide hot water and soap. The reason is because the main sinks are used to wash or used for soaking or defrosting food and not for washing dirty hands at which the bacteria might stick onto the surface. Hands must be washed before starting work and after toilet, handling rubbish, smoking, coughing/sneezing, touching face/hair and handling raw food/dirty items. Always wash hands after smoking as the hand is in contact with the mouth which can transfer bacteria when making food afterwards.

Tasting food requires a clean spoon and avoid double dipping by cleaning the spoon after tasting. Using fingers to taste is seen as unprofessional.

Jewellery is not recommended as the skin underneath is warm and harvests bacteria. There is also a chance the ring might fall off and end up on the customer's plate! Nails should be short as bacteria can harvest underneath and nail polish is not allowed as it can flake off into the food.

If injured during work like having a cut, wear a coloured waterproof bandage so it can be seen if it falls out. To be safe, wear a disposible glove over the coloured bandage. If the wound makes contact with the food, the customer could potentially get sick. If you're sick, quickly call the manager/supervisor that you cannot make it. Don't be a hero as the sickness can spread to the food and onto the customer.


When storing foods in the fridge, cooked food is ALWAYS stored above raw food. If raw food is stored on top or on the same shelf as cooked food, the dripping liquid from the raw food can cross contaminate the food underneath or on the same shelf.

Foods stored in the fridge is at the temperature under 4c. Hot foods must be cooled before storage otherwise it will rise the temperature of the fridge and the foods inside and cause bacteria to grow. Foods with strong smells like onions must be sealed otherwise other foods will absorb the smell. Overcrowding the fridge will cause the lack of air flow making it difficult to keep all the foods chilled. Freezers have the temperature of under -18°C.

The dry store should be a cool and dry environment with no moisture and heat as it cause the sealed/dry foods to go off. Food should be stored at least 20cm above the floor as storing on the floor is unhygienic.


Fridge storage is under 4c while freezer storage is under -18°C. When defrosting food, place the food in a fridge overnight, run under cold water or use a microwave. Using boiling/hot water will start the cooking process or make bacteria grow. Poultry must be cooked fully at 75°C (or 82°C to be safe) with no pink juices visible as it contains a deadly bacteria called salmonella. Mince must also be cooked at 75°C while pork is cooked at 72°C to retain the juicy flavour. Food reheated must be at 70°C to 75°C. When being kept warm, the temperature is at 63°C. If it is any hotter, the food will continue to cook and will become dry and overcooked. The temperature between 5°C to 60°C is the danger zone which bacteria can grow. Steak can be served while it is raw in the inside as bacteria only exists on the outside and a  well done steak however, becomes dry and chewy.


Food being on display have the maximum time of two hours. Bacteria will grow after that time frame and will multiply as time goes. After a long period of time, bacteria will turn into spores which is to protect the bacteria. Toxins are waste produced by bacteria. Spores cannot be killed by normal cooking and can only be killed by cooking at 100°C for 4-5 hours while toxins can be killed while cooking at 100°C for 30 minutes. Of course, boiling food for hours will waste time, gas and end up turning the food into mush/soup which is inpractical. So the best thing to do is to discard the food. Spores also exist in dirt and soil so when cooking vegetables (e.g. potatoes), make sure you wash it fully. Chefs fill a sink full of water to clean a large load of vegetables in preparation for service.