Preventing food poisoning

The best way to avoid getting food poisoning is to ensure you maintain high standards of personal and food hygiene when storing, handling and preparing food.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends remembering the "four Cs":

  • cleaning
  • cooking
  • chilling
  • cross-contamination (avoiding it)

It's also recommended that you stick to a foods "use by" date and the storage instructions on the packet.

These steps are important becausethings suchas a food's appearanceand smellaren't a reliable way of telling ifit's safe to eat.


You can prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and viruses by maintaining good personal hygiene standards and keeping work surfaces and utensils clean.

Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water, particularly:

  • after going to the toilet or changing a baby's nappy
  • before preparing food
  • after handling raw food
  • after touching bins or pets

You shouldn'thandle food if you are ill with stomach problems, such as Traveller's diarrhoea or vomiting or you have any uncovered sores or cuts.


It's important to cook food thoroughly, particularly meat and most types of seafood, to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Make sure the food is cooked thoroughly and is steaming hot in the middle. To check that meat is cooked, insert a knife into the thickest or deepest part. It is fully cooked if the juices are clear and there is no pink or red meat.Some meat, such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb, can be served rare (not cooked in the middle), as long as the outside has been cooked properly.

When reheating food, make sure it is steaming hot all the way through. Don'treheat food more than once.


Certain foods need to be kept at the correct temperature to prevent harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Always check the storage instructions on the label.

If foodhas to be refrigerated,make sureyour fridge is set to05C (3241F).

If food that needs to be chilled is left at room temperature, bacteria can grow and multiply to dangerous levels.

Cooked leftovers should be cooled quickly, ideally withina couple ofhours, and put in your fridge or freezer.


Cross-contaminationis when bacteria are transferred from foods (usually raw foods) to other foods.

This can occur when one food touches or drips onto another food, or when bacteria on your hands, work surfaces, equipment or utensils are spread to food.

To prevent cross-contamination:

  • always wash your hands after handling raw food
  • storeraw and ready-to-eat foods separately
  • store raw meat in sealable containers at the bottom of your fridge so that it cannot drip onto other foods
  • use a different chopping board for raw food and ready-to-eat food, or wash itthoroughly in between preparing different types of food
  • clean knives and other utensils thoroughly after using themwith raw food
  • do notwash raw meat or poultry any harmful bacteria will be killed by thorough cooking, and washing may splash harmful bacteria around the kitchen

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 4 Jan 2017