The key to a 5-star food hygiene rating is properly implementing a food hygiene system that prioritizes the welfare of your customers.
What is food hygiene? Food hygiene in 2022
Food hygiene is a set of food manufacturing practices that aim to minimize biological food hazards through safe and ...
- Food hygiene is a set of food manufacturing practices that aim to minimize biological food hazards through safe and clean operations to protect public health from foodborne diseases.
- Food safety is a management system that is applied by a food business to ensure that hazards are controlled to acceptable levels. Food safety is concerned with all types of hazards and includes the system of corrective actions, monitoring, and how to achieve safe operations.
- Adequate training and seminars can help attain a higher level of food hygiene for your food business.
WHAT WE'LL COVER:
Every consumer has the right to safe and good quality food. However, now and then, people all over the world get sick from consuming unsafe food. Such events are clear proof of lapses in a food business's commitment to food hygiene and safety. Food hygiene is a crucial aspect to ensure food safety and prevent foodborne illnesses.
Whether cooking at restaurants, working in a catering service, or food factory, maintaining food hygiene is pivotal in keeping harmful contamination at bay, thus protecting your consumers and your reputation. This aspect of food safety is a collaborative effort from you and everyone in your whole team. Good quality food hygiene cannot be easily fulfilled with a HACCP plan. It must be practiced and continuously monitored throughout the existence of your food business.
This article is a comprehensive review of food hygiene – the fundamental principles, food hygiene facts, how to pick a proper food hygiene course online, and what to understand from a food hygiene rating scheme. We also give simple food hygiene tips at home to keep your loved ones free from foodborne illnesses.
Definition of food hygiene
Terminologies can always be very confusing. Food hygiene has been defined in many ways, but our task is to make everything easier for you and to answer what is food hygiene. Put simply, food hygiene is the practice a food manufacturing business applies to safeguard public health from any risks of foodborne illnesses that can be caused by microbial contamination. Particularly, food hygiene deals with the biological aspect of keeping food safe.
Food hygiene is a collection of practices and guidelines to keep your operations clean and under healthy conditions. This term is concerned with food handling, transport, proper storage of food, and the actual processing of your materials.
Specifically, the aims of food hygiene include the following:
- To prevent food from spoiling due to contamination as a result of unclean environmental conditions, poor food hygiene practices, and lack of orientation on food safety.
- To orient and educate people involved in the processing of your product on how to practice safe food handling and sanitary practices.
- To extend the shelf-life of your product through clean processing.
- To prevent releasing unsafe food to the market that can result in foodborne illnesses.
Food Safety vs Food Hygiene
Is food hygiene the same as food safety? Technically, they are not the same. Although in some cases, food manufacturers use these terms interchangeably, they have different meanings and encompass different principles.
When it comes to food establishments and manufacturing, food safety is an essential aspect. It includes a wide array of areas to ensure that food is safe and fit for consumption. This term is used to describe a wide management system that is applied by a food business to ensure that hazards are controlled to acceptable levels. Food safety is concerned with all types of hazards and includes the system of corrective actions, monitoring, and how to achieve safe operations. In short, food safety is the bigger umbrella, and food hygiene is under it. Food hygiene is the practice of doing the directives from food safety in the cleanest and safest way possible.
Food safety refers to a holistic approach to controlling and managing food safety hazards. It spans from sourcing raw materials, processing, food packaging, transporting, and finally until the products are ready for sale. During processing, food is vulnerable to biological, physical, chemical, and allergy contamination. Food hygiene standards mainly cover conditions, rules, and procedures to prevent biological food contamination, leading to foodborne illnesses. The measures range from proper food handling, thorough cleaning activities, preventing cross-contamination, etc. In comparison, traceability and correct labeling are part of food safety management, but not necessarily in food hygiene standards.
When preparing your ingredients in a restaurant, food hygiene is applied by segregating raw and cooked materials including the utensils used for each ingredient. It is involved in cleaning and sanitation procedures before cooking as well. These processes are also under food safety, but so is applying a corrective action if any non-complying steps are not part of food hygiene anymore.
Why is Food Hygiene Important for Your Food Business?
There are numerous benefits a business will enjoy from maintaining good hygiene practices. Below are some key signs of why it is important to apply food hygiene to your operations.
- Provide safe and hygienic food
Food and hygiene should always go hand in hand. A food business is obliged by law to provide wholesome and hygienic food. Implementing food hygiene standards is a crucial step to achieving the ultimate goal. Through practicing good food hygiene, your company will be able to continuously serve safe food and gain a good reputation from consumers. Failure to observe hygienic practices can lead to complaints and issues with public health safety.
- Avoid food waste
Improper food handling will lead to unnecessary waste. For example, if cross-contamination occurs during packaging, depending on the degree of contamination, a batch can be forwarded to disposal. If in case the products get distributed before detection of contamination, your business will be forced to recall and either reprocess or dispose of your contaminated products. Proper food hygiene practices ensure that little to no waste is produced and that they are well managed.
- Build consumer trust
When a business constantly delivers high-quality, safe products as expected by consumers, it's good for its reputation and business sustainability. Reports of recalls or public health issues linked to your business can be bad for your brand's name. In addition, most consumers go back to the brands they are most familiar with and have had satisfactory experiences.
- Personnel development
Practicing food hygiene in the operation facilities does not only improve your business per se. It also teaches your employees and everyone involved in the production to apply hygienic processes in their everyday lives and therefore improve their way of living. In addition, in order for food hygiene training to be effective, it must be applied and practiced every day and become a part of your employee's routine.
- Improve business efficiency
Reduced food waste, streamlined workflow, and improved productivity are a direct result of good hygiene practices. Without much food wastes and continuous and efficient workflow, your company saves on cost and can positively affect profit.
Food Hygiene guidelines and principles for the food business
Effective cleaning is vital to ensure that all equipment and surfaces are free from contamination. This principle applies to kitchen utensils, working areas and even your raw materials. Cleaning also pertains to the sanitation process before working. Some of the essential activities include:
- scheduling regular cleaning activities;
- set-up monitoring forms to ensure that the cleaning schedule is followed;
- making cleaning procedures accessible for all food handlers. For example, by putting a food hygiene poster in food handling areas as well as sanitizers and washing sinks near entrances;
- using food grade chemicals and disinfectants;
- sanitize the working area before starting processes;
- wash ingredients before cooking such as fruits and vegetables; and
- regularly wash and sanitize all cooking materials before and after using.
To make cleaning procedures clearer, we suggest making your monitoring forms that include areas to be cleaned and disinfected, who are tasked to do the cleaning, how often should it be done, and checking the inventory of cleaning materials. In addition, cleaning instruction materials such as how to properly dispose of trash bags, how to use cleaning materials properly, how to store cleaning materials, and a checklist of what to do can also be helpful to remind your employees how to conduct the cleaning procedures.
At FoodDocs, we can provide you with a monitoring form template for your cleaning schedules. This template could be perfect for you as it is editable and can be tailored to your food business operations. We offer you an array of templates you can use to satisfy your HACCP food safety management system.
Thorough cooking is necessary to kill harmful bacteria that potentially cause food poisoning. Each food item requires a different amount of cooking time and safe and adequate temperature up to the center of your product. A food hygiene sign displaying the correct cooking temperatures for each type of food is vital to make sure not a single item is undercooked. Food safety standards for the correct temperature must always be present and accessible for operators as reference. This principle of food hygiene also includes reheating your food when left for a while in ambient temperatures to ensure that any potential contaminations are controlled.
Proper chilling is crucial to stop bacterial growth and keep food safe, particularly for perishable food such as ready-to-eat salad, cooked meat, etc. Storing your food products before use or even after using prevents the multiplication of harmful microorganisms. Chilling means storing your food in conditions with temperatures around or equal to at least 35°F to 40°F (2°C to 4°C).
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns in food hygiene is the problem of cross-contamination. This issue occurs when bacteria spread among food, equipment, and work areas. Cross-contamination occurs as a result of improper segregation of materials, using similar utensils for raw and cooked food, improper wiping of working area, and others. For example, bacteria can spread from raw foods to the finished product when equipment and utensils are not segregated appropriately.
Proper segregation is one of the best ways to avoid cross-contamination. Raw ingredients must always be separated from cooked ones to avoid contamination of already processed food. Because there is no other processing after the food is cooked, the contamination cannot be controlled. Proper segregation also includes setting a space for dried and wet products. Because wet products have more tendency to have a higher microbial count, lumping them with dry ingredients can rehydrate the latter materials and contaminate them. This situation also contaminates the dry ingredients in terms of quality.
Cross-contamination can also be prevented by implementing a good workflow. An effective workflow that can apply food hygiene and safety does not have any "backflow" where a processed product returns to previous sections of the working area. In this way, contaminations can be controlled more efficiently.
In addition to these, cross-contamination is mostly prevented by properly cleaning your materials before and after using them. This reminder includes your working station and even your protective gear.
Improper handling during transport from your premises to stores may lead to contamination and spoilage. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that the containers provide adequate protection from potential contamination, keep the appropriate temperatures for chilled or frozen products (refrigerated vans, cool bags) and separate raw products from ready-to-eat ones. Included in this principle is to clean the vehicle regularly as well. One common rule during transport is that any food product, whether raw or cooked, must not touch the floor of your vehicle. That is, pallets, crates, or trays must be used to hold your products. In addition, a vehicle used for raw materials must not be used for delivering finished goods at the same time and without proper transition cleaning.
Every personnel working in food handling areas is responsible for maintaining personal hygiene. Safe food and hygiene are two items that work together. Personal hygiene refers to your and your employee's practices and routines in taking care of your body and keeping it clean. Some of the essential practices include:
- proper wearing of clean and protective clothing at all times;
- keeping hair tidy and covering it with a hat or hair net;
- properly washing hands thoroughly before and after handling food;
- abstaining from eating, smoking, chewing gum, sneezing, spitting, and touching face or hair
Proper waste management
A food business is always expected to generate waste. These wastes can be but are not limited to, fruit peels, raw material packaging, bones, seeds, and even spoiled foods. The mentioned list of wastes includes both biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials. These wastes must be kept far from the working area to prevent possible contamination. In addition, biodegradable wastes attract all types of pests. Their clearance must be more frequent than other waste materials to prevent any pest from residing around your production area. A single location, far from where foods are stored, must be dedicated to waste management.
Safe drinking water is one of the most widely used ingredients in all businesses. It is not only used for formulations and food preparation such as in juices or in cooking for a restaurant. Water is also used for cleaning raw materials and utensils alike. As such, the quality of water in all areas of your food business must have a clean and potable source.
Pre and post-operation sanitation
Before operations, your working area must be cleaned and sanitized properly to ensure that no contaminants are present. During off working hours, dust may build up on the countertops as a result of a lack of proper air ventilation. As such, it must be included in a monitoring form to always check if preoperational sanitation is done. Preoperational checking also allows your production team to verify if any maintenance needs to be done regarding your operations. Similarly, it is equally important to sanitize your working area after work. This assures you that no waste or leftover food is left anywhere around your working area. Pre- and postoperation checklists must be provided to the sanitation crew.
A part of keeping food and hygiene together harmoniously is proper orientation and continuous development of your staff's understanding of food hygiene. New employees must be oriented with how your business implements food hygiene practices and emphasize the importance of these steps. Food businesses are required by law to provide adequate food hygiene training for food handlers and staff. It is crucial that every person has comprehensive knowledge and knows their roles in maintaining food hygiene and safety. Along with a series of training, refresher courses must also be conducted. This activity helps the management to remind all employees of the importance of food hygiene and include any incidence of non-compliance to food hygiene for reference.
Food hygiene facts & tips at home
- Millions of people get ill every year from contaminated foods. WHO states that 1 in every 10 ten gets sick from eating unsafe food with many of them remaining to have long-term health problems.
- Anyone can get sick from consuming unsafe food. Some groups have an increased risk, including elderly people, pregnant women, children, and people with weakened immune systems and certain health conditions including cancer, diabetes, HIV, and autoimmune disease. Immunocompromised people are twice as vulnerable to foodborne illnesses than healthy individuals and will experience greater side effects from contamination.
- Many food poisoning cases happen at home. So, it's important how you prepare and handle food.
- Contaminated water serves as a carrier of an array of foodborne illness-causing pathogens.
- You need at least 20 seconds of handwashing to make the process effective. Make sure to cover your nails and the spaces between your fingers.
- Staphylococcus aureus, one of the leading causes of foodborne illnesses, is commonly transferred through cross-contamination. This bacteria is commensal which means it lives in some parts of our body including the skin, ears, hands, and nose. Therefore, touching your skin and then the food you are handling can cause cross-contamination.
- It is actually advised not to wash chicken, turkey, or any other poultry meats before cooking. Washing them will only increase the potential of most pathogenic microorganisms to spread all over your area through the water you used.
- Unsafe water is a common prerequisite for the occurrence of diarrhea
Keeping food safe is everyone's business. Every actor in the food chain has a fair share of responsibility, hence the farm to fork approach. It is also consumers' responsibility to ensure that food stays fit for consumption. Here are some basic food hygiene rules you should follow at home.
- Keep everything clean. Always wash your food, surfaces, hands, and tools properly. You also need to rinse your hand before handling food. Keeping your kitchen and pantry clean will also prevent insects and pests from invading your food storage.
- Separate raw and ready-to-eat food. Keeping raw ingredients and ready-to-eat food separate effectively prevents bacteria from spreading onto each other (cross-contamination). Use different chopping boards for vegetables, raw meat, dairy products, and cooked food.
- Cook thoroughly. We need to cook foods thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Use a food thermometer to ensure that food is cooked to an appropriate temperature.
- Follow the 2-hour rule. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container within 2 hours of cooking. Discard any pieces that have been standing at room temperature for an extended period.
Food Hygiene Course & Training
- Discuss what contamination is and its major types.
- Discuss the potential routes of food contamination.
- Discuss what hazardous and high-risk food is.
- Discuss what is food hygiene and how can it prevent food-borne diseases.
- Proper procedures for practicing food hygiene.
To gain sufficient knowledge, staff can learn from various sources, such as:
- Accredited online course and training
- On-the-job training
- Prior experience and education
Well-informed personnel is key element to achieving a strong food hygiene system and implementing your food safety plan.
Levels of food hygiene and safety training
The extent of knowledge is based on the roles and job description of your business. For example, a food quality manager should know how to implement a food safety management system, such as HACCP or ISO 22000, whereas a food handler who has direct contact with food on a daily basis must know the foundation of food hygiene rules and how to implement them. These foundations include prerequisite programs such as sanitation standard operating procedures and good manufacturing practices.
Food hygiene and safety training is generally divided into three levels with an occasionally offered 4th level. Learn the difference below, so you can choose which level fits your requirements best.
A basic level course. This level is intended for personnel who don't have direct contact with food but work in food preparation/ handling areas or where the food is handled elsewhere. The main objective is to raise food safety awareness in the workplace. Training courses include basic food and hygiene practices, keeping the working area clean, minimizing contamination in served food, and acquaintance with key food safety issues. This food hygiene course is suitable for bar workers, warehouse staff, waiters, kitchen porters, food delivery riders, etc.
This level is designed for anyone who has direct contact with food whether in preparing, handling, or packaging the food. These employees are normally responsible for the implementation of critical control points approved in the HACCP food safety plan of your business. A trainee will learn the food handling practices and food hygiene such as allergen control and sanitation as well as relevant legislation. It also emphasizes the importance of each practice and clarifies a deeper understanding of why and how to control food hazards. This course is perfect for production staff, cooks, baristas, and kitchen assistants. It applies to businesses including hotels and restaurants, food manufacturers, hospitals, and cafeterias. This level of training is the minimum standard for most businesses to operate.
The content is similar to the Level 2 food hygiene course with some additional materials on the implementation of a food safety management system, auditing and training staff. This course is designed for supervisory and managerial roles for retail, manufacturers, and catering service. Employees who have control over handling a group of people are encouraged to take such a course. For example, quality supervisors, restaurant managers, and supermarket managers. Under this level, managerial employees are also taught strategies on how to spread their food hygiene knowledge to their subordinates in the most efficient way possible and find ways how to apply food hygiene practices throughout the operations.
Although uncommonly introduced to most businesses because of the level of technicality, the level 4 training course applies to managers as well in the food manufacturing industries. A minimum of level 3 training is required prior to access to level 4 and this course needs physical appearance to participate. This level deals with more technical aspects of food safety and contamination, microbiology and foodborne illnesses, hazards and their control (HACCP), advanced sanitation strategies, and roles of managers in food safety.
If you are promoted to a higher position, you will also need to take a more advanced course to upgrade your knowledge. For example, as production staff, you have a Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate. Upon getting a promotion to a supervisor, you will need to get a Level 3 Food Hygiene Certificate.
Food Hygiene Rating Scheme
You can expect to find food hygiene ratings in various types of food establishments, such as:
- Restaurants, cafes, pubs, and bar
- Food stalls, trucks, and takeaways
- Supermarkets, grocery stores, and specialty food stores
- Canteens, catering, and hotels
- Schools, hospitals, and care homes
How is Food Hygiene Rating Scheme Calculated?
Assessment of food hygiene rating includes three primary aspects which are based on the compliance of a business to legal regulations on food safety and hygiene. They are broken down into a food hygiene inspection checklist that will be evaluated on the day of inspection.
- Hygienic food handling
This area includes preparation, cooking, reheating, cooling, and storage.
- Cleanliness and physical condition of building and facilities
The scoring for this aspect includes the building and facilities conditions that enable good hygiene practices, such as layout, proper ventilation, pest control, and handwashing stations.
- Food safety management
The inspector checks whether the business has an adequate system to ensure that food hygiene and safety will be well implemented and maintained.
Food hygiene rating is on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 being the lowest (need urgent improvement) and 5 being the highest (very good).
Rating 5 – very good
Rating 4 – good
Rating 3 – generally satisfactory
Rating 2 – some improvement is necessary
Rating 1 – major improvement is necessary
Rating 0 – urgent improvement is required
Inspection frequency depends on the potential public health risk. The lower the risk, the longer the interval for the next inspection. Generally, it's anywhere between 6 months to 2 years.
Businesses with low ratings must make significant improvements immediately within a scheduled timeframe. If the food safety officer concludes that the food might be unsafe and the company poses a serious risk to human health, this can result in partial or complete closing down of the business.
Results of the assessment usually are released 14 days after the date of inspection and stickers of their scores are given. Results are also posted on the Food Standards Agency website.
Food hygiene checklist
Keeping up with all the tasks needed to ensure food safety can be a bit overwhelming to everyone on your team. Not to mention that all of these tasks must be done every day, before and after working operations. As such, the best way not to miss any task on your food hygiene practices is to make a checklist of the most important daily tasks that need to be done every day.
A helpful and efficient checklist would comprise the following points:
- Personal hygiene list (clean uniforms, protective gears, proper grooming, proper handwashing, presence of loose items, and current status of health).
- Presence of first aid kit
- Cleaning list for food preparation areas
- Properly calibrated thermometers for refrigerators
- Clean water testing results
- Pre and post-operation checkups (waste disposal and cleaning before work hours)
- Proper coding of raw materials
- Pest control monitoring
All of these and more points are needed to be regularly checked and must have their monitoring forms. Luckily, our team at FoodDocs has made quick and easy-to-use templates for all types of monitoring forms needed for keeping food hygiene in your business effective and efficient. Our templates contain the basic and most important information you need to guide you on how to start making your forms. If our forms seem to not fit your operations, you can easily edit them to tailor your business.
Digitize Your Food Safety Plan with FoodDocs
As mentioned above, food hygiene is an integral part of the food safety management system. One of the internationally recognized and widely implemented systems is HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point). Whether you're just about to start creating your HACCP plan or you have been implementing it for a while, FoodDocs offers an excellent solution for digitizing your system. If you are in the process of building your HACCP plan, documenting your food hygiene inspections list, managing team training, or preparing upcoming audits, there is always a great solution FoodDocs can offer you.
What our services offer you is a smart and automatic way of setting up a HACCP food safety management plan that is a perfect fit for your business. With our machine-learning program, you can build your own HACCP plan in just 1 hour. Included in this system is a free template hub that you can use to make your monitoring forms and flow diagram for all of your operations. You can try out our services and build your HACCP plan 500x faster than spending your hours the traditional way.
All documents made through our HACCP builder are downloadable and printable. Get the benefits of consulting through several food safety experts through our services but pay 15x less. Join all the other 10,000 food business owners who have tried our services by availing of your free 14-day trial.