Food safety

There are a number of procedures that should be in place in your kitchen to ensure you produce safe food.

We encourage businesses to develop basic food safety policies.

In this section you will find out about food safety courses and get advice on food safety staff training.

The topics covered are:


Basic food safety course

There are a number of private providers who offer basic food hygiene training courses. View the NZQA website for details.

For training requirements under the Food Act 2014, view our Food Act 2014 page.


New staff inductions

All staff handling food should attend a basic food handling course run by an approved provider.

You must keep:

  • records and copies of all staff training - both formal and in house
  • photocopies of relevant training certificates.


Dealing with staff sickness

Since 1 July 2013 every food premises must have a written sickness policy which must be adhered to by all food handling staff.

The sickness policy provides a system of controls to minimize the risk of food becoming contaminated from food handlers carrying harmful bacteria and viruses. It outlines general exclusion criteria, as well as, exclusion times for specific illnesses.

You can download a copy of the health and sickness templates, sickness record sheet and exclusion of infected persons information, from the Ministry for Primary Industries FCP manual.

By law, food handling staff must report any illness to their manager especially any skin, nose, throat, stomach or bowel trouble or if they have infected wounds.

It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that food handlers do not pose a risk to food safety.

Staff should:

  • report if anyone in their household is suffering from diarrhoea, stomach upset or vomiting
  • not return to work until free of gastro-intestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea for 48 hours
  • not return to work until they have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours after stopping the use of anti-diarrhoeal medication.


Good safety practices

Follow these procedures in your kitchen to ensure you produce safe food.

Good personal hygiene reduces the likelihood of food contamination and applies to every food handler.

Personal cleanliness

  • Hair should be tied back and covered with a hat, cap, etc.
  • Do not touch hair, nose or mouth during food preparation.
  • Food handlers should not spit, sneeze or cough over food.
  • Do not attend work if you are unwell.
  • Food handlers should smoke outside any food preparation areas and ensure that smoke and odour can't seep back into the building.
  • Cover cuts and sores with a waterproof and brightly coloured dressing.
  • Wear minimum jewellery (a plain wedding band is acceptable).
  • Keep fingernails short and clean, with no false nails, nail varnish or other nail decoration.
  • Use tongs whenever possible when handling food.
  • Sample cooking with a clean spoon each time.

Hand washing

Wash hands thoroughly in the hand wash basin. Use antibacterial liquid soap, a nail brush, and warm water and dry with disposable paper towels:

  • on entering the food area
  • after going to the toilet
  • before handling food
  • when hands are dirty or soiled
  • after handling raw food
  • after taking a break, eating, drinking or smoking
  • after using a handkerchief, coughing, or touching hair, nose or mouth.

Protective clothing

  • Wear a clean uniform and change into your uniform at work to prevent contamination from outside.
  • Do not wipe hands on work clothes, apron or kitchen clothes.


Cross contamination

It is important to prevent cross contamination because foods like raw meat, shell eggs and unwashed vegetables can harbour harmful bacteria. 

Raw foods can be made safe by cooking, as this kills the bacteria.

Bacteria on salad foods can spread to cooked or ready-to-eat foods by direct contact with people, animals and objects. This can be removed through peeling, trimming and washing thoroughly.

Safe handling practices will reduce the chance of transferring harmful bacteria.

The most common causes of cross contamination are:

  • direct - contact between raw food and cooked or ready-to-eat food during transport, storage or preparation
  • indirect - for example via equipment, splashing, chef's cloths or food handlers.


Preventing cross contamination


  • staff must have good personal hygiene - see Good safety practices
  • do not use chefs’ cloths for wiping hands and then dishes
  • thoroughly wash hands after handling raw foods and before touching other food or equipment

Separate raw, cooked and defrosting foods

  • use separate refrigerators for raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods, where possible. If not possible, store raw food in the bottom of a shared refrigerator and below the cooked or ready-to-eat foods
  • raw meat must be stored separately from raw vegetables
  • raw food which is being defrosted should be stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator in a tray or bowl that will catch any 'drip' as the food is defrosting
  • all foods in the process of being cooled should be kept separate from raw foods

Storing food

  • store food containers off the floor to prevent them picking up dirt which could be transferred to the work surfaces
  • separate designated equipment should be used for raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods. If this is not possible, then it must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised between uses

Separating food handling equipment

  • designated utensils should be used for the handling of raw food and separate utensils for cooked or ready-to-eat foods
  • use a colour coding system. The following colours are commonly used:
    • Red - raw meat
    • Yellow - raw poultry
    • Blue - fish
    • Green - vegetables
    • White - dairy
  • reduce the handling of ready-to-eat food. This may be achieved in various ways such as the use of dedicated tongs and serving spoons. This will assist in reducing the risk of cross contamination
  • when cleaning, it is recommended that high risk areas are cleaned before low risk areas, especially when the same equipment is being used
  • use separate cloths for cleaning raw areas from cooked or ready-to-eat areas. Cleaning cloths can help to transport bacteria around your premises.


Keeping your kitchen clean

Keeping your kitchen clean, using clean equipment and having a personal hygiene policy in place will help you produce safe food.

This is vital to prevent food poisoning as harmful bacteria can build up on equipment, surfaces, chopping boards, crockery, utensils, switches, door handles, taps and other areas that you and food can come into contact with.

Here are some tips:

  • Ensure a constant, easily accessible supply of cleaning cloths, cleaning chemicals and hot water is available at all times
  • Use clean cloths, mops, buckets and re-freshed hot water for cleaning.
  • Store cleaning equipment, detergents and fluids in a separate compartment away from food.
  • Clean all bench and food contact surfaces with detergent or degreaser to remove the dirt, then use a food grade commercial sanitiser to kill the bacteria.
  • Always read the labels on cleaning chemicals.
  • Prepare a cleaning schedule and make sure that everyone knows what duties they are responsible for. See our Cleaning schedule example (PDF 32KB).
  • Use a commercial grade dishwasher to wash all utensils ensuring the rinse cycle temperature is above 83ºC.
  • Never use tea towels or multipurpose cloths for cleaning.
  • Sanitise or boil cleaning cloths at the end of each day. Colour coding your cloths can help, such as red cloths for raw meat and blue cloth for cooked meat.
  • Do not use food sinks to fill or dispose of dirty water.
  • Clean food waste containers weekly or as necessary to minimise odours.

Cleaning schedule example 

Item to be cleaned

Cleaning frequency

Cleaning method

Bench tops and food preparation 
equipment e.g. meat slicer

Throughout the shift as required and at the end of the shift

Wipe down with a clean cloth soaked in a warm water detergent solution followed with sanitiser.


Sweep regularly throughout every shift and mop at the end of each day.

Sweep clean, then mop with a hot water detergent and disinfectant solution. Never clean the floor with cloths..


At the end of each day

Wipe with a clean cloth soaked in warm water and detergent

Glass display cabinets and counters

At the beginning of every day

Spray with a window cleaner and wipe with a clean cloth to a sparkle.

Coolroom, freezer and refrigerator

Weekly or more frequently as necessary

  1. Clean shelving and mop or wipe out with clean water and detergent solution.
  2. Wipe down the exterior, especially the door handle, with detergent solution and a clean cloth



Use a clean cloth and warm detergent solution

Exhaust canopy and fan


Spray exterior with window cleaner and wipe with a clean cloth


Wash inner services and around exhaust ducting with warm detergent solution and a clean cloth or scrubbing brush.

Light fittings


Wash with warm detergent solution.


Maintenance of your kitchen

The lack of good maintenance to either the structure of a premises, or to equipment and utensils can result in a number of health hazards.

Kitchen equipment

These should be kept in a good state of repair as defective and poorly maintained equipment, fixtures and fittings can result in the physical contamination of food.

All food contact surfaces and equipment must be maintained in good condition to enable effective cleaning and disinfection.

Certain equipment may need to be serviced at regular intervals, such as cooking equipment, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, ventilation systems and cutting.

Defective or poorly maintained equipment, such as refrigerators, freezers and cooking equipment could result in inadequate temperature control.

You may wish to develop a maintenance schedule that is specific to your premises and document any regular checks made.


Crockery, cutlery, glassware and containers must be repaired or replaced as appropriate when badly worn, broken or unable to be effectively cleaned and disinfected.


Pest control

You need to take practical steps to control pests in your premises or you may be closed down and prosecuted. If you have a pest issue, contact us.

Pests contaminate food with harmful bacteria and cause serious damage to stock and the structure of the premises. Conduct a weekly visual check for any damaged stock, droppings, dead insects and egg cases.

Most pests are active during the night so you are unlikely to see live insects or rodents during the day.

It is important that food is stored off the floor and slightly away from the wall to enable these checks to be conducted.


Cockroaches carry diseases that can be transferred to food or customers. If there are cockroaches in your premises, employ the services of a reputable pest control company and follow the instructions of the pest control operator before and after spraying.

Before spraying:

  • thoroughly clean premises
  • stop all food preparation
  • put all foodstuffs away in sealed containers
  • pull out items and equipment, as necessary, to ensure that the operator has access to areas that attract cockroaches, e.g. refrigerators motors and hot water cylinders.

After spraying and before starting food preparation:

  • vacuum up all dead cockroaches, droppings, shells and egg cases. After spraying, continue to check problem areas daily for evidence of dead or alive cockroaches
  • repeat the process approximately one month later as egg cases can be resistant to spray
  • thoroughly ventilate the premises (open windows).


Ants spoil food through their presence and their odour. Control them through bait stations.


Flies carry a host of diseases on their bodies and in their saliva. Stop attracting or allowing flies to enter your premises by:

  • flyscreening all windows and doors where practical
  • fitting an electronic fly killing device, and following the manufactors advice and avoid placing them directly over food preparation areas
  • employing an approved pest control firm to treat ceilings, walls and around refuse storage areas
  • ensuring refuse is adequately sealed during storage and by removing refuse from the premises at least daily
  • keeping food covered.

Moths or weevils

Moths or weevils destroy grains, flour and dried food products so:

  • clean up flour and other dried ingredient spills around the floor edges and behind equipment daily
  • create a separate compartment for dry goods storage. This must be vacuumed, cleaned weekly and checked for evidence of moths
  • keep flour bags, and other dry ingredients' containers and bulk butter and lard containers sealed
  • check flour and other stock rotation on a weekly basis
  • all dry goods bins must be emptied and washed at least once a month.


Birds carry many diseases on their bodies and in their droppings so:

  • bird proof roosting and nesting areas
  • remove waste material
  • prevent entry.


Rodents cause considerable loss through damage, spoilage and contamination so:

  • prevent rodents from gaining access by sealing off gaps
  • keep yard areas clean and tidy
  • maintain an effective control programme or contract a reputable pest management service provider
  • remember poison is still a food source that attracts rodents. Using poison alone as a preventative measure is not recommended when there is no activity to eradicate.


Stock control

Stock control describes the measures taken to ensure that food is not kept beyond its shelf life.

If high risk food is kept too long, even under favourable conditions, harmful bacteria may multiply.

Stored food may become contaminated by food handlers, pests and the catering environment.

Longer shelf life foods, whether dried, canned or frozen, may also deteriorate if kept for too long.

Incoming food should not be accepted if:

  • its packaging is seriously damaged exposing the product to the risk of contamination
  • the food is obviously contaminated
  • the 'use by' or 'best before' date has expired.

Check incoming temperatures of readily perishable foods and record in the Food logbook example (PDF 43KB).

Stored food:

  • must not be used if its 'use by' date has expired
  • stock should be used on a first-in-first-out basis
  • which is damaged must be removed
  • such as dried food should be stored in waterproof containers
  • which is existing should be used first. Don't top up with new stock
  • which can cause allergic reactions should be kept separate from other foods.

Re-label with appropriate 'use by' date:

  • high risk food which has been removed from its original packaging
  • high risk foods prepared on the premises and then stored for later use.

You may wish to develop your own stock control policy that is specific to your premises and record any checks made.


Temperature control

Harmful bacteria are present in foods and can quickly multiply if left out at room temperature. The 'danger zone' is between 5ºC and 60ºC.

To control the rate that bacteria multiplies, food must be kept frozen, chilled or hot (i.e. out of the danger zone).


  • Place perishable food in the refrigerator for storage immediately after delivery.
  • Left-over food must be refrigerated as soon as possible.
  • Store raw meat (including poultry) in a separate refrigerator, otherwise store at the bottom of the refrigerator so it cannot drip or spill onto other food.
  • Stacked food must be covered at all times.
  • Do not cover food with tea towels.
  • Ensure good stock rotation.
  • Do not overload the refrigerator. The air inside must be able to circulate.
  • Refrigerator temperature should be at or below 4ºC.
  • Freezer temperatures should be below -18ºC.
  • Defrost food in the refrigerator.
  • Keep the refrigerator clean and defrost regularly.
  • Record daily temperatures in the Food logbook example (PDF 43KB).


  • Refrigeration and freezing does not destroy germs.
  • Food still 'goes off' in the refrigerator.
  • Refrigeration and freezing is just a temporary safe storage method.

Cooking, cooling, reheating and hot holding

  • Cook food to a minimum of 75ºC core temperature.
  • Cooked food must be rapidly cooled and then refrigerated within one hour. Use shallow containers with food about one inch in thickness and stir to aid cooling or place food container in a clean sink with cold water and a sufficient amount of ice.
  • Food being hot held for service must be kept in pre-heated equipment above 60ºC. If 60ºC cannot be maintained the food must be either reheated within in two hours or disposed of.
  • Reheat food to a minimum of 75ºC core temperature. Do not reheat again.
  • It is advisable to conduct temperature checks of equipment using thermometers and a temperature probe for food and record the results.
  • Record temperatures in the Food logbook example (PDF 43KB).


Waste disposal

The storage and disposal of waste is important as it presents a risk of physical contamination to food and may also attract pests.

Food that is damaged, out of date or rotting may present a risk of microbiological cross contamination from harmful bacteria.

Waste is any item of food, ingredients, packaging materials or old cleaning cloths which is not suitable for further use and intended to be thrown away.

Food waste

Food waste should be placed in containers with suitably fitted lids and removed frequently from the food handling areas where it is produced.

The containers should be kept in good condition and be made of durable material so they are easy to clean and disinfect.


Other waste such as cardboard and paper does should be kept separate from food but does not need to be kept in sealed containers.

It must also be stored in a way that does not pose a risk of contamination to food or provide somewhere for pests to live or breed.

Sanitary waste

Sanitary waste and waste disposal units need to be dealt with by competent personnel who are responsible for their correct disposal. All disposal units should be regularly cleaned to prevent offensive odours.

Waste waiting for collection

Refuse stores must be:

  • kept clean
  • protected from pests
  • ideally, be located away from food storage and handling areas to avoid the risk of contamination to food or drinking water
  • outdoor storage should preferably be sited away from the main delivery entrance.

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