Hygiene for food businesses

Cleaning, disinfection and preventing food cross-contamination


Cleaning, disinfection and preventing cross-contamination are essential to:

  • make sure the food you serve is safe to eat
  • prevent food poisoning

Cleaning, disinfection and food hygiene

Effective cleaning, and disinfection where necessary, gets rid of bacteria on hands, equipment and surfaces. This helps to stop harmful bacteria from spreading onto food. You should:

  • wash and disinfect work surfaces and equipment between different tasks and after preparing raw meat, shellfish, poultry and eggs
  • clean and clear as you go, washing or wiping up spills as they happen
  • use appropriate cleaning products and follow the manufacturer's instructions
  • use disinfection products that meet BS EN standards - check product labels for either of these codes: BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697
  • prevent food waste building up

Hand-wash is a key part of food hygiene. Make sure that everyone who handles food wash their hands:

  • before starting work
  • before touching any food
  • after a break
  • after going to the toilet
  • after emptying rubbish
  • after cleaning
  • after touching raw meat, poultry or eggs
  • after touching a cut or changing a dressing

Download hand-washing guidance (PDF, 572KB).


Cross-contamination is when harmful bacteria spread onto food from other food, surfaces, hands or equipment. It's most likely to happen when:

  • raw food touches or drips onto other food
  • raw food touches or drips onto equipment, work surfaces or cloths
  • people touch raw food with their hands and then handle ready-to-eat food

For example, raw meat stored above ready-to-eat food in the fridge presents a risk of contamination of the food below.

How to prevent food cross-contamination

Take the following actions to prevent cross-contamination in your business:

  • Clean and disinfect work surfaces, chopping boards and equipment before you start preparing food and after you have used them to prepare raw food.
  • Use separate, colour-coded equipment (including chopping boards and knives) for raw meat/poultry and ready-to-eat food unless they can be heat disinfected in, for example, a commercial dishwasher.
  • Wash your hands before preparing food. Wash your hands after touching raw food.
  • Keep raw and ready-to-eat food apart at all times, including packaging material for ready-to-eat food.
  • Store raw food below ready-to-eat food in the fridge. If possible, use separate fridges for raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Provide separate working areas, storage facilities, clothing and staff for the handling of ready-to-eat food.
  • Use separate machinery and equipment, such as vacuum packing machines, slicers and mincers, for raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Use separate cleaning materials, including cloths, sponges and mops, in areas where ready-to-eat foods are stored, handled and prepared.
  • Train your staff to know how to avoid cross-contamination.