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 and prevent food poisoning from occurring.

Cleaning, disinfection and food hygiene

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

  • make sure that everyone who handles food wash their hands thoroughly before starting work and before touching any food, as well as after a break, going to the toilet, emptying rubbish, cleaning, touching raw meat, poultry or eggs, touching a cut or changing a dressing
  • wash and disinfect work surfaces and equipment thoroughly between different tasks after preparing raw meat, 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
  • disinfection products should meet BS EN standards - check product labels for either of these codes: BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697
  • prevent food waste building up


Cross-contamination is when harmful bacteria are 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 thoroughly 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 thoroughly 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.
  • Separate cleaning materials, including cloths, sponges and mops, should be used in areas where ready-to-eat foods are stored, handled and prepared.
  • Make sure that your staff know how to avoid cross-contamination.

E.coli prevention in your food business

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued guidance for food businesses on E.coli O157 and controlling cross-contamination. E.coli O157, a strain of the bacteria that can cause particularly severe illnesses or death. Following the measures described in the guidance will also help to control other bacteria including salmonella and campylobacter.