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Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness. This includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potentially severe health hazards.

The five key principles of food hygiene, according to WHO, are:

  • Prevent contaminating food with pathogens spreading from people, pets, and pests.
  • Separate raw and cooked foods to prevent contaminating the cooked foods.
  • Cook foods for the appropriate length of time and at the appropriate temperature to kill pathogens.
  • Store food at the proper temperature.
  • Do use safe water and cooked materials

Consumer tips: How to keep food safe:

  • One of the simplest measures that any person can take to prevent the spread of foodborne illness is to properly wash his or her hands before preparing or eating any meal. Many people who believe they are adequately washing their hands are sorely mistaken.  A proper hand-washing technique includes using soap and warm water; washing vigorously for 10–20 seconds, making sure to reach all surfaces of the hands including the wrists, between the fingers, and under the finger nails; rinsing well; drying hands with a paper towel; and using a paper towel to turn off the water. It is certainly important to wash your hands before preparing a meal and eating, but hands should also be washed after using the restroom, coughing/sneezing, touching cuts or skin infections, handling raw meat, and touching pets or other animals. 
  • Some foods should simply never be ingested in the first place because they have such a high risk of containing harmful bacteria that can make people ill. These foods include raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, unpasteurized juices (such as fresh apple cider), raw meat, and raw cookie dough.
  • In cases of suspected food spoilage, food should never simply be tasted, smelled, or eye-balled in order to determine its safety. It is true that in some cases, the presence of mold or other growths may indicate that a food has reached its expiration date and should not be consumed. However, some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been stored at room temperature for over 2 hours, microscopic bacteria may have been allowed to grow. The safe temperature for foods in refrigerators is between 2°C (35°F) and 7°C (45°F), and freezers should be kept at -18°C (0°F) or below.
  • It is not safe to let meats thaw on the counter all day, because this allows any germs present on the food to thrive. Safer alternatives to this practice include thawing the food under running water (21°C (70°F) or below) for less than 2 hours, placing the food in the refrigerator to thaw, or thawing the food in the microwave as part of the cooking process.
  • It is also important to make sure that raw meats are cooked to the appropriate internal temperature before they are consumed. Safe internal temperatures for various meats include 74°C (165°F) for poultry, 68°C (155°F) for ground meat, and 63°C (145°F) for fish and pork.
  • The cooking process is often the time that foodborne pathogens are allowed to enter the food we eat because of the prevalence of cross contamination. Cross contamination occurs when a person handling raw meats, eggs, fish, or other foods containing harmful pathogens touches cooking utensils, cutting boards, or cooking surfaces and spreads the pathogens to ready-to-eat foods in the process. This mode of transmission can be interrupted by washing hands after handling raw foods, washing utensils and cutting boards that have come in contact with raw foods, and disinfecting counter surfaces frequently.

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