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Food hygiene is vital to prevent food poisoning. If you prepare food for yourself or others, it's important to know how to clean, store, prepare and cook food hygienically.
About food hygiene
Anyone can get food poisoning but some people, including babies, children, older people, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, are more likely to have serious symptoms. Around 80,000 people in the UK report food poisoning each year.
Food poisoning has a range of symptoms, including diarrhoea, stomach pains, nausea and vomiting. Depending on the cause and the person affected, it can lead to gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines), more serious illness, organ failure or even death.
What causes food poisoning?
Food poisoning is usually caused by micro-organisms (germs), including bacteria, viruses and moulds. The spread of these germs can be prevented by practising good food hygiene.
The most serious types of food poisoning are caused by bacteria. Bacteria multiply best in a moist environment between 5°C and 63°C. Just a single bacterium on an item of food, left out of the fridge overnight, could generate many millions of bacteria by the morning, enough to make you ill if eaten. Storing food below 5°C prevents bacteria from multiplying, and cooking food at temperatures over 70°C will kill off any existing bacteria.
Bacteria that cause food poisoning are found in many foods, including:
How you become ill
Food poisoning from bacteria can occur in different ways.
Maintaining high levels of personal and kitchen hygiene are important and effective ways to stop germs from spreading.
Bacteria can spread from raw food, in particular meat, to food that has already been cooked or is eaten raw, such as salads.
Storing food correctly
It's very important that food is stored in the right place (eg fridge or freezer) and at the correct temperature.
Cooking food safely
If food isn't cooked at a high enough temperature, bacteria can still survive. The following advice will help you to cook safely.
Even if you're usually careful about food hygiene, it's very easy to slip up on special occasions such as barbecues, picnics or parties. Here are some tips on how to keep food safe.
When eating out, it's also important to consider food hygiene. You can't usually inspect the kitchens in restaurants, cafés or pubs, but there are certain warning signs of poor hygiene standards that you can look out for: