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Tips to improve your food hygiene rating

These tips represent good practice in interpreting the law in a workable way, and are the areas where businesses often fail in a number of instances at inspection and therefore fail to get a 5 rating.

The tips do not cover every eventuality, and should only be followed in addition to good hygiene practice provided elsewhere in the food business.

Reduce cross-contamination

  • Keep your washbasin clean and supplied with hot and cold water as well as soap and preferably disposable paper towels to dry hands. 
  • Food handlers must wear clean and washable over clothing. 
  • Don't leave equipment or cleaning implements in your washbasin. Leave it clear and available for use and use it when necessary, especially after handling raw vegetables and raw meat or after touching knives and boards used to prepare these. 
  • Wash hands frequently. Emerging concern over the risks of E. Coli 0157 is leading to an increasing need to have systems in place to avoid cross contamination between handling raw food (raw meat and unwashed salad/vegetables) and ready to eat food (cooked meat, prepared salad, anything to be eaten without further treatment).

Example methods to reduce cross contamination between include:

  • Separate colour coded chopping boards and knives for raw and ready to eat foods 
  • Separate colour coded cloths for washing equipment for raw and ready to eat foods 
  • Separate preparation areas (for example having a 'raw foods only' area) 
  • Separate handling of raw and ready to eat foods 
  • Separate fridges for raw and ready to eat foods 
  • Separate vacuum packing machines for raw and ready to eat foods 
  • Separate weighing scales/food slicers for raw and ready to eat foods 
  • Separate designated sink for food use 
  • Separate clean over clothing for handling raw and ready to eat foods 
  • Use of disposable cloths for a) wiping down surfaces as part of clean-as-you-go, and b) wiping down after full cleaning and disinfection of surfaces/equipment. 

Keep the kitchen and equipment visibly clean

  • Wash and then disinfect all chopping boards, tables, knives and containers that come into contact with ready to eat food. 
  • Only use disinfectant/sanitiser that meets BS 1276/13697. 
  • Clean-as-you-go, preferably using disposable paper towels and not cloths. 
  • Identify things people touch frequently - surfaces, taps, handles, boards, and knives and clean and disinfect them frequently. 
  • Create a cleaning schedule for these tasks and follow it. 

Keep chilled food safe

  • Check use by dates, cover all food, date code with stickers and aim for a fridge air temperature of 5C on the opening check. 
  • Store raw food separately and below ready to eat food if a separate fridge is not available. 
  • Keep a fridge thermometer in each fridge and compare its accuracy with your probe thermometer at least every three months (see below). 
  • If you cool food, cool it down as quickly as possible in an area away from raw food, and place in the fridge within 90 minutes. 

Cook, re-heat and hot hold to the correct temperature

  • Be clear about how you check that food is properly cooked or reheated. One way is to use a disinfected probe thermometer each time to check the food has reached 75C for 30 seconds. If you don't check with a probe thermometer each time you cook, you must choose other methods of checking. These could include: a) Splitting meat to check for inner colour change (sausages/burgers), or boiling and simmering liquids (soup, gravy, sauce). These checks can tell you the food is safely cooked/reheated without the need for checks with a probe thermometer. b) If you are checking the time taken to cook/reheat in a preheated oven or a microwave you must have a record of when you measured the temperature with a probe thermometer and the time taken to reach 75C or above. In Safer Food Better Business this is recorded as a Prove it Record. This method is commonly used for pies reheated in a microwave, chicken cooked in a fryer, sausage/fish cooked in a frying range, cottage pie/beef/chicken/pork cooked in a preheated oven. 
  • Keep your probe thermometer in good working order. Carry out a calibration check in boiling water (100C) and melting ice (0C), at least every 3 months and by keep a record of the temperature found. 
  • If you intend to hot hold food, once it has been cooked or reheated (to 75C or above) it must be kept at 63C or above. Always keep a thermometer in hot displays and check daily that the air temperature is kept over 63C, and carry out occasional (e.g. weekly) checks that the food temperature is above 63C using your disinfected probe thermometer. Also use a disinfected probe thermometer for daily checks that food in a Bain Marie is over 63C. 

Documented food safety management system

  • Make sure you have fully completed and updated your documented system. Only businesses with completed and up to date systems get a top rating. 
  • Make sure you complete a diary every day to show you are carrying out opening and closing checks and recording any problems. If there are any gaps this may count against you. 
  • If you intend to use the 'Safer Food Better Business' pack as your documented food safety management system, follow the guidance provided on the Food Standards Agency (external link) website.