Hygiene and Food Preperation

kitchen food hygiene
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Restaurant Hygiene Principles

What is hygiene?

Hygiene is a concept that originally described the science of the prevention of infectious diseases. Hygiene for catering requires keeping food clean when received, stored, prepared and served. This cleanliness relates to the premises, equipment and employees.

Why is this important? Well quite simply when food is not clean or fresh, it can make you very ill or even kill you. This is obviously not something you want to do so it is very important to apply good principles of hygiene in your hotel or catering establishment.

This is not just a personal preference, but good hygiene in a catering establishment is actually required by law. The Public Health Act 63 of 1977 governs health and hygiene in South Africa. It has undergone several amendments (which are changes to an existing law), the latest one being the National Policy for Health Act 116 of 1990.

Basic food hygiene regulations

  • Protect food from contamination.
  • The siting of a building for a hotel or catering establishment must not be so that it will lead to contamination of the food.
  • Food containers and equipment must be easily cleaned and constantly kept clean.
  • Food should not be wrapped in a covering that can contaminate it.

Cleanliness of all staff

  • Food handlers must wear protective clothing, neckties (for men) and hats or headscarves.
  • When not worn, working clothes and shoes must be stored in lockers.
  • Food handlers should cover cuts and bruises.
  • There must be a complete first-aid box on the premises.
  • Food handlers may not spit or smoke while they are on duty.
  • If someone on the premises gets food poisoning, a health inspector must be informed.

Restroom facilities for staff

  • Germs and viruses can easily be transferred from the stomach onto the hands. So, food handlers must wash their hands after they have been to the toilet, and soap and hand-drying facilities must be provided.
  • Signs must be placed above the basins to remind food handlers to wash their hands.
  • Bathrooms must have enough washbasins with hot and cold water.
  • Toilet facilities must be separate from food-handling areas.

Washing unprepared food

  • Equipment that is used to clean food must be sterilised.
  • The kitchen must have hot and cold running water, and sinks or machines to wash food.
  • Some sinks need only cold water to wash fruit or vegetables.
  • Sinks must be clean.
  • A food cleaning agent can be used with the cold water to wash food (for example, Milton can be used for fruit and vegetables).

Temperatures at which food must be kept

  • Except during preparation, food that contains meat, fish, gravy, cream, eggs or milk must be kept warm at between 62 deg C and 67deg C, or kept cold below 10 deg C in a fridge.
  • Certain foods do not support the growth of food poisoning organisms, because they are either too dry, or contain plenty of sugar or salt. These foods do not have to be kept within the temperature ranges outlined above. An example is biltong.

Reheating food

  • Before food is served it must be reheated to at least 82C.
  • Before gelatine is used it must be heated to 71C for 30 minutes. Any gelatine that is not used must be cooled and refrigerated for later use.
  • Food handlers must not touch bakers’ confectionery fillings, such as cream, with their hands.


  • Floors, walls, windows and ceilings must be kept clean.
  • Rats and other vermin must be exterminated from the building.
  • Rubbish should not be allowed to accumulate.
  • Rooms, where food is kept or handled, must be well lit and ventilated (when air circulates freely).

Delivery vehicles

  • Delivery vehicles must have the name and address of the owner printed on them.
  • These vehicles must be closed by canvas or other washable materials.
  • The floor of meat delivery vehicles must be fitted with duco boards, which are spray-painted in high gloss enamel paint that is easy to clean.
  • Loading equipment must be kept clean.
  • Offal must be transported in sealed containers.

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is an illness that causes a person to get sick from eating infected foods. Vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, and stomach cramps may be the symptoms of food poisoning. Food poisoning can also cause death in serious cases.

What foods are commonly associated with food poisoning?

The following foods, when infected, commonly cause food poisoning:

  • cooked meat and poultry and cooked meat products
  • gravy and stock
  • milk, cream, mock cream, custard, batters, and dairy produce
  • eggs and egg products
  • shellfish
  • cooked rice

Control of bacterial growth and preventing food poisoning

  • The food handler plays a very important role in the control of bacterial growth. Food handlers should keep the following points in mind when preparing and storing food:
  • All food should be properly and completely thawed before preparation, especially meat and poultry. Salmonella food poisoning is present in the centre of the meat and chicken cuts. When food has not been defrosted adequately, the centre of the food remains chilled. When cooked, the centre of the meat or poultry is then not heated to sufficiently high temperatures to kill the salmonella, which begins to multiply.
  • Food must be cooled quickly after cooking and kept cool until service. Food that is kept at room temperature is at an ideal temperature for bacterial growth.
  • Food must be cooked thoroughly. Meat should never be cooked partly on one day and finished off the following day. Heating food so that the centre of the food does not reach sufficiently high enough temperatures to kill existing bacteria will cause bacteria to multiply.
  • Food that is frozen and thawed must never be frozen again since bacteria can start to multiply.
  • Food must never be kept warm. Warm food (any temperature under 65°C) is ideal for multiplication of bacteria. Food must be kept either very hot (above 65°C) or very cold (below 8°C).
  • Food must never be reheated more than once, since this food may contain Clostridium perfringens or Bacillus cereus spores which begin to multiply upon heating.
  • Temperature control is vitally important.

Knowing the correct operating temperature your appliances must operate can greatly decrease your chances of food contamination.


Refrigerators control the temperature between 1°C and 4°C, which stops most bacteria from multiplying.

When using the fridge, kitchen staff should adhere to the following:

  • Foods must be cooled before refrigeration, as hot foods placed in the refrigerator cause the temperature in the refrigerator to rise, which allows for the multiplication of bacteria.
  • Raw foods and cooked foods should be stored separately. Raw meat juices can fall onto cooked meat, which will cross-contaminate the food.
  • The refrigerator must be defrosted regularly, ice crystals that form in the refrigerator form on the food and this destroy the quality and texture of the food.
  • The door must be kept shut when not in use as the temperature rises each time the door is opened.
  • Foods should be covered with plastic film to prevent the food from drying out and also prevents odours from passing from food to food.


Most freezers operate at a temperature of between -18 °C and -22°C.

Food that has been defrosted and not used should not be refrozen for two reasons, as follows:

  1. The bacteria will have multiplied in the defrosted food and when refrozen these bacteria will not be killed.
  2. The texture and quality of the food will have been partially destroyed with freezing and if refrozen will cause noticeable damage to these aspects of the food.

A note on Microwave ovens

The same rules apply to microwave cooking as do for conventional cooking, as follows.

  • Meat should always be completely thawed before cooking.
  • The cooking times for meat must be adequate. The temperature in the centre of the meat must reach 70°C for at least two minutes.
  • Food must not be reheated more than once.

Different food preservation methods

We need to prevent the growth of micro-organisms or kill them to preserve food.


In dehydration techniques, the moisture content of the food is lowered so that toxic micro-organisms cannot live on the food.

There are numerous methods of dehydrating foods, and a method that maintains the flavour of the food as much as possible should preferably be used. A common method of dehydrating food that changes the food flavour is “smoking” although this flavour change is generally desirable.


Refrigeration is one of the most widely used means of food preservation. We refrigerate food because the low temperatures make bacteria inactive and retard the action of enzymes.

We usually refer to two types of refrigeration, namely:

  1. high-temperature refrigeration at between 0 deg C and 5 deg C (where we would use a fridge); and
  2. low-temperature refrigeration (where we would use a freezer) at approximately -20 deg C.

‘High-temperature’ refrigeration cannot suppress bacterial or fungal growth entirely. There is a limit to the storage-life of foods in high-temperature refrigeration, and even in low-temperature refrigeration.

Heat Preservation

High temperatures are widely used in the dairy and canning industries to destroy bacteria and other micro-organisms. We call the optimum combination of time and temperature that is fatal to a particular bacterium its thermal death point.

Pasteurisation and sterilisation are two methods of preservation in which heat is used.


Any substance that is applied to food to avoid or retard spoilage is a preservative. In the Preservatives in Food Legislation, the forms and acceptable amounts of preservatives are laid down.

Depending on the type of food, the use of known preservatives, such as sulphur dioxide, sulphites, benzoic acid, and benzoates, is limited to a particular maximum concentration. The food label must list all the preservatives in a can.

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