Food poisoning prevention advice

Some foods can support the growth of pathogenic (harmful) bacteria.

If food is not treated correctly, these pathogens can be eaten and can cause food poisoning. In Britain it is estimated that up to 5.5 million people a year suffer from food poisoning.

Bacteria grows fastest between 9ºC and 62ºC. Keep hot things hot, and cold things cold, and you will slow their growth and lower the risk of food poisoning.

  • Fridges should ideally be around 4 to 5ºC. If you don't have an integrated temperature display, invest in a fridge thermometer and keep an eye on the temperature.
  • Hot food should steam in the centre so invest in a probe. As a general rule two minutes at 70ºC will reduce bacteria to a safe level.
  • Don't leave high risk food out at room temperature for long periods. Buffets shouldn't be left for more than four hours - including preparation time!

Raw foods naturally carry a certain amount of bacteria which will be killed off when they are cooked, but if these bacteria get onto ready to eat foods they may be eaten and cause illness.

  • Raw meat and fish should be kept at the bottom of the fridge so they don't drip juices on to ready to eat foods like sausage rolls, cheese, cooked meats or other foods which will not be cooked before eating.
  • Cover food to prevent unwanted drips and contamination.
  • Use separate chopping boards and equipment such as knives for ready to eat and raw food.
  • Use separate cloths for different jobs i.e. using the same cloth to wipe a clean surface where raw meat had been handled will spread contamination. Single use cloths or kitchen roll are ideal.

Bacteria needs food to survive, by removing crumbs, grease and spills you reduce the amount of food available and decrease their chances of survival.

  • Clean as you go. Keeping up with the tidying means you are more likely to do it well, rather than leaving yourself one big mess to clean up when you finish.
  • Use the right cleaning product for the job and always read the instructions - check your kitchen cleaning products are 'food safe'.
  • Keep pets out of the kitchen where possible.

A wealth of information on food poisoning and how to avoid it is available on the Food Standards Agency website.