School operations

Food Handling in Canteens

Food preparation and storage considerations

Food naturally contains bacteria and some food may contain food poisoning bacteria.

Foods need to be handled correctly to ensure that:

  • they do not become contaminated
  • that bacteria already in the food do not have an opportunity to grow

It is important to keep raw food totally separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

  • If raw food is cooked thoroughly most of these bacteria will be killed
  • However, if raw food comes into contact with other food that has already been cooked, or is ready-to-eat, the bacteria can transfer to this food. This is called cross-contamination.

The below information outlines key food preparation and storage considerations.

Receiving food

  • Perishable foods supplied must be transported in a refrigerated food vehicle or refrigerated containers.
    • The temperature of deliveries should be checked.
    • Food that needs refrigeration must be transported at below 5°C.
  • Dry goods being delivered need to be checked for unbroken packaging, such as:
    • bread
    • cans

Preparing food

  • Use separate utensils, chopping boards and other equipment for raw and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.
    • If this is not possible, thoroughly wash and sanitise equipment between use.
  • Thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables before use.
  • Don't use any food if you cannot guarantee its freshness.

Handling food

  • Raw foods, which are to be cooked, can be safely handled with bare hands (provided hands are clean).
  • Cooked or ready-to-eat foods should be handled with utensils such as:
    • tongs
    • spoons
    • spatulas
    • disposable gloves.

Important — if gloves are worn:

  • they must be changed at least hourly or sooner
    • if they become torn
    • if there is a change in task for example when changing from raw to ready-to-eat food
  • always wash hands before putting on gloves
  • never touch food with gloves that have been used for cleaning

Cooking and heating food

  • Thaw food in the bottom part of the refrigerator before cooking.
  • Microwave ovens can be used to thaw food provided that the food is cooked immediately afterwards.
  • Never refreeze food that has been thawed.
  • All food is thoroughly cooked, especially those of animal origin and ensure the juices run clear.
  • If food can be cooked from a frozen state extra care must be taken to ensure the food is cooked right through.
  • If reheating food ensure that it is brought to the boil and simmered for at least five minutes.

Storage and display

If food is not stored, displayed or transported correctly the naturally forming bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels. One of the most important factors for growth is temperature with the known danger zone being between 5° and 60°. High risk foods such as meat, dairy products and seafood must spend only the minimum possible time in this zone.

These same foods produced in the form of dried food powders in their original packaging, jars, cans and other containers of which have been processed by heat are not categorised as high risk foods.

Safety can be maintained by correctly storing food:

  • controlling the temperature of high risk foods:
    • keep cold food below 5°C
    • keep hot food above 60°C
  • checking equipment, particularly the operating temperatures of refrigerators and freezers including:
    • buying a thermometer and monitor temperatures
    • immediately reporting malfunctioning equipment to the principal (or campsite owner if at a camp)
  • keeping frozen food frozen
    • defrosting freezers regularly and not overloading them
  • covering food with lids, foil or plastic film
  • ensuring food does not remain in storage too long
    • once a can is opened, any remaining food should be transferred to a suitable container and labelled with the date
    • do not store in the can
  • storing chemicals, cleaning equipment and personal belongings away from food preparation and food storage areas
  • food that is displayed must either be wrapped or covered
  • bain-maries (or hot holding devices) are to keep hot foods above 60°C.
    They are not to be used to:
    • reheat foods
    • stack food above the tray level or else it will not remain sufficiently hot

For more information visit Food — how to keep food safeExternal Link at health.vic

Guidance chapter on safely preparing, cooking and storing food

Reviewed 10 June 2020

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