Food safety toolkit

Cutting meat
All food handlers must know how to keep food safe to eat, this includes having the necessary skills and knowledge in food safety.

Food safety is critical when working in the food industry. Food handlers may be involved in food preparation such as:

  • chopping
  • cooking
  • cooling
  • packing
  • transporting
  • food service or
  • cleaning the premises and equipment.

All food handlers must know how to keep food safe to eat, this includes having the necessary skills and knowledge in food safety.

Read these food safety tips to help you to work safely with food. 

Factsheets, posters and stickers

Food businesses are encouraged to print and display the posters and stickers around the workplace.



Hard copies of these posters and stickers may be available through your local government, please contact your local government (external site) for more information. Alternatively, businesses can print the digital copies and laminate them as required. Local governments should contact the Department of Health Food Unit for information about ordering posters and stickers, email: 







Any request for co-badging materials must be directed to the Department of Health’s Communications Directorate for assessment and review.

Promotional materials must be approved by the Communication Directorate before release. Email:

Bacteria grow in the temperature danger zone

Bacteria are all around us, including those that can cause food poisoning. Food poisoning bacteria grow best at temperatures between 5°C and 60°C. This is called the Temperature Danger Zone. Keeping potentially hazardous foods cold (below 5°C) or hot (above 60°C) stops the bacteria from growing.

Temperature control

The food safety standards specify that potentially hazardous foods must be stored, displayed and transported at safe temperatures and, where possible, prepared at safe temperatures.

Safe temperatures are 5°C or colder, or 60°C or hotter. Potentially hazardous food needs to be kept at these temperatures to prevent food-poisoning bacteria, which may be present in the food, from multiplying to dangerous levels. These bacteria can grow at temperatures between 5°C and 60°C, which is known as the temperature danger zone. The fastest rate of growth is at around 37°C, the temperature of the human body.

What foods are potentially hazardous?

Foods normally considered to be potentially hazardous are:

  • raw meats (including meat patties), cooked meats and food containing meat, such as casseroles, curries, lasagne and meat pies
  • dairy products and foods containing dairy products, such as milk, cream, custard and dairy-based desserts seafood (excluding live seafood) and food containing seafood, such as seafood salad processed fruits and vegetables, such as prepared salads and ready-to-eat fruit packs
  • cooked rice and pasta
  • processed foods containing eggs, beans, nuts or other protein-rich food, such as quiche and soya bean products
  • foods that contain any of the above foods, such as sandwiches, rice salads and pasta salads.
  • foods that contain raw eggs, such as raw egg butter, mayonnaise, aioli and hollandaise sauce.

Keeping food cold

When you are preparing food, make sure that you have enough refrigerator space to store the food. It is important to remember that refrigerators do not work properly when they are overloaded or when food is packed tightly, because the cold air cannot circulate.

Cooling foods

If potentially hazardous foods have to be cooled, their temperature must be reduced as quickly as possible. The temperature must fall from 60°C to 21°C in less than two hours and be reduced to 5°C or colder in the next four hours. It is difficult to cool food within these times unless you put food into shallow containers.

Keeping food hot

If you are keeping food hot on cooktops, in ovens or in Bain Marie units, the equipment needs to be set high enough to ensure that the food remains hot (60°C or hotter).

Check the temperature with a thermometer

Why have a thermometer?

A thermometer is essential in ensuring that food is kept at safe temperatures. If your food business prepares, handles or sells any potentially hazardous food, it must have a thermometer which is accurate to ±1°C.  The thermometer must be available for use when foods are being prepared, so you may need more than one if foods are prepared in different places.

How to clean and sanitise your thermometer

As the probe of the thermometer will be inserted into food, the probe must be cleaned and sanitised before it is used to measure the temperature of the food. This is especially important when the thermometer is used to measure the temperature of raw food and then ready-to-eat food, for example raw chicken and cooked chicken. To clean and sanitise your thermometer:

  • wash the probe to remove any grease and food particles
  • sanitise the probe using alcohol wipes or very hot water
  • thoroughly dry the probe using a disposable towel or let it air dry

Checking the temperature of food

  • Determine the warmest area of a cool room or the coldest area of a hot display unit
  • Insert the clean, dry probe into the food
  • Remember that temperature readings are not instant- wait until the temperature has stabilised before reading. 
  • Stabilise the thermometer between measuring hot and cold foods by allowing the thermometer to come back to room temperature. 
  • If the food is packaged or frozen, place the length of the probe between two packages of the food.

Remember that the temperature at the centre of food may be different from the surface temperature. For example, when cooked food is being cooled in the refrigerator, the centre of the food will take the longest to cool. Therefore, when checking the temperature of this food, make sure that you check the centre.

How to check the accuracy of your thermometer

Thermometers must be accurate to ensure that temperatures are correctly measured. Ask the company that supplied your thermometer how often the thermometer should be checked for accuracy. It is best to have your thermometer regularly checked and maintained by the supplier of the thermometer. However, if you would like to check the accuracy of your thermometer yourself, use the following method.

Place some ice into a container with a small amount of cold water. The ice should not float if the correct amount of water is used

  • Mix into a slurry and insert the thermometer probe
  • Leave it for about three minutes
  • Check and note the temperature. It should read 0°C
  • Do this three times and compare the temperatures recorded
  • If they vary by more than 1°C, get your thermometer checked by the supplier
Cook for the right time at the right temperature

Ever since cave people first set up campfires and started roasting their kill, humans have enjoyed a whole new set of flavours in food. Cooking not only improves flavour but also reduces the chances of foodborne illness.

The way we cook our food is as important as the way we prepare and store it.  Inadequate cooking is a common cause of food poisoning. Fortunately, most harmful microorganisms can be destroyed by cooking food for the right time to achieve the desired internal temperature.

Time and temperature are very important for cooking food properly.  Some food businesses rely on foods being roughly the same size so that a cooking device can be set to a point and then cooked to a pre-determined time.

  • Cook mince (including burger patties), sausages, whole chickens or stuffed meats right through to the centre. You should not be able to see any pink meat and the juices should be clear.
  • Cook steak, chops and whole cuts of red meat to your preference as food poisoning bacteria are mostly on the surface.
  • Cook fish until it flakes easily with a fork. 
  • Cook foods made from eggs such as omelettes and baked egg custards thoroughly. 

As an example, cooking food to a temperature of 72°C for 2 minutes will reduce Listeria monocytogenes to a 6 log reduction.  A 6 log reduction reduces the bacterial count from 1,000,000 to <1.

Separate raw and cooked food

Separating raw and cooked food and the utensils, chopping boards and food contact surfaces that they touch reduces the chance of cross contamination of microorganisms.

Some raw food can carry bacteria and other microorganisms that have the potential to cause illness if allowed to grow and increase in number.

Cooking can kill most food poisoning organisms – it is important not to spread the organisms from the raw food back to the cooked food.

Keeping raw and cooked food separate stops the bacteria from raw food re-contaminating cooked food.

Cross-contamination is what happens when bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one object to another.

The most common example is the transfer of bacteria between raw and cooked food.

Preparing food hygienically

  • Use different utensils, plates and chopping boards for raw and cooked food;
  • Wash utensils, plates and chopping boards for raw and cooked food thoroughly between tasks;
  • Make sure you do not wash raw meat; and
  • Wash your hands after touching raw food and before you handle ready-to-eat (RTE) food.

Storing food effectively

  • Cover raw food, including meat, and keeping it separate from RTE food
  • Use any dish that has a lip to prevent spillages
  • Store covered raw meat, poultry, fish and shellfish on the bottom shelf of your fridge
  • Use different utensils, plates and chopping boards for raw and cooked food

The most effective control to minimise the risk of contamination from pathogenic bacteria (pathogens) onto RTE food is the complete separation of staff, storage areas, preparation tables, utensils and equipment. This means there will be no contact between people handling RTE food and those involved in the preparation of food which may be contaminated with pathogens.

There will be circumstances where complete physical separation is not possible, and other controls will be necessary. For example, temporary separation arrangements, space or time separation. Strict cleaning and disinfection between processes must be followed between uses. This means that all RTE should be prepared first and either served for immediate consumption or chilled/stored in the relevant area. Then the food preparation area can be used for the preparation of raw meat and other raw vegetables that require cooking.

Remember - separate raw and cooked foods.

Cleaning and sanitising

The cleaning of food contact surfaces is only effective if they are first washed with a detergent and then a chemical sanitiser or heat is applied to kill bacteria and organisms on the surface.

Cleaning and sanitising

As a food business, cleaning and sanitising are important ways to prevent harmful microorganisms or other things contaminating food and making it unsafe to eat.

What are the requirements?

Under Standard 3.2.2 - Food Safety Practices and General Requirements, food businesses need to keep their premises, fixtures, fittings, equipment and food transport vehicles clean and sanitary. This means:

  • things like food scraps, garbage, dirt, grease etc should not be left to accumulate
  • utensils and surfaces that come in contact with food should be clean and sanitary.

Cleaning vs sanitising

Cleaning is removing general dirt, grease and food waste. Sanitising destroys microorganisms.

You must clean items before you sanitise them.

Getting it right


  • pre-clean utensils by scraping or wiping food scraps off surfaces and rinse with water
  • wash and scrub with hot water and detergent to remove grease and food residue (soak if needed)
  • rinse off the detergent


  • saturate items with 70% isopropyl alcohol or ethanol, or
  • use a commercial sanitiser and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, or
  • use a dishwasher that can sanitise (usually the longest hottest setting)
  • air-drying is best
  • where you can, remove parts like stab mixer sticks and slicer blades to sanitise.

Tips for using a dishwasher

  • follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the right detergent or sanitising chemical
  • scrape or rinse excess food off before placing in the dishwasher
  • place items in a way so that water can reach all surfaces
  • use the longest, hottest cycle (or the program designed for sanitation)
  • check that items are clean and dry when the cycle ends
  • use clean hands to unpack the dishwasher
  • clean and service the dishwasher regularly (including filters).
Wash your hands

Washing your hands with soap and water before handling food is one of the most important, simplest and easiest methods to reduce the spread of microorganisms to food.  The action of washing your hands loosens grease and oil and removes bacteria from them. Handwashing is not just getting your hands wet, it is a mechanical process.  Soap acts as a lubricant for the mechanical process and it also loosens the grease and oils.

How to wash your hands properly

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water
  • Apply liquid soap and lather well for 20 seconds
    • Rub hands together across all surfaces of your hands and wrists
    • Don’t forget the backs of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails
    • Jewellery should not be worn during food preparation
  • Rinse well under running water, rubbing while rinsing
  • Dry your hands using a paper towel

When to wash your hands

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Between handling raw and cooked or ready to eat foods
  • After handling raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs
  • After using the toilet
  • Before and after eating
  • After using a tissue or handkerchief
  • After smoking
  • After handling rubbish
  • When your hands are visibly dirty or contaminated with food
Last reviewed: 10-12-2020
Produced by

Environmental Health Directorate