Food Safety and Infection Prevention

09 Feb 2017

Food Safety and Infection Prevention

5.5 million people are affected by foodborne illnesses in the UK each year. Harmful bacteria can easily be spread via numerous different routes. Some of these include direct contact with other food, hands, equipment, surfaces or utensils, or from cross-contamination during food preparation [1].

“In ideal conditions, food poisoning bacteria can double their numbers every 20 minutes - in less than 7 hours, 1 food poisoning bug can multiply into 1 million.

Symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, headaches, mild fever, loss of appetite, weakness and nausea. People most at risk of serious symptoms are the elderly, very young and pregnant women. Each year in the UK, an average of 1 million cases of food borne illnesses are reported, leading to 20,000 hospitalisations and 500 deaths. This costs the economy £1.5 billion annually [2].

Food poisoning has serious consequences, especially for the workforce. More than 23 million working days are lost each year because of food poisoning.” [3].

Campylobacter causes the most cases of food poisoning and is considered responsible for more than 280,000 cases of food poisoning each year, leading to 1,000 hospitalisations. Research conducted by the FSA concluded that campylobacter directly causes 100 deaths annually in the UK, and costs the economy £900 million [4].

The reason campylobacter is so fierce is that it spreads easily and has a low infective dose, so only a few bacteria in a piece of undercooked food, or bacteria transferred from raw poultry and meat onto other foods including ready to eat foods, can cause illness.

The latest figures from the FSA suggest that up to a third of the UK population could contract food poisoning from campylobacter during their lifetime. This information is based on the current infection rates of more than a quarter of a million people per year [5].

Norovirus, commonly known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’ is the most common cause of infectious intestinal diseases, resulting in diarrhoea and vomiting in the UK. Research published by the FSA in 2011, suggested that there were approximately 3 million UK cases of norovirus annually. In 2011, there were an estimated 314,000 cases of foodborne norovirus infections in the UK [6].

Signs and symptoms of norovirus usually begin 12 to 48 hours after first exposure to the virus and last 1 to 3 days. However, those infected may continue to shed virus in their feces for up to 2 weeks after recovery. Viral shedding may last several weeks to several months. Some people with norovirus may show no signs or symptoms of infection, however they are still contagious and can spread the virus to others [7].

Clostridium perfringens causes diarrhoea and abdominal cramps, usually without fever and vomiting [8], with 80,000 reported cases annually in the UK [9].

The early symptoms of E.Coli O157 include fever, nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhoea that is often bloody, malaise and mild dehydration. A small number of people with E. coli O157 infection go on to develop a serious condition called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). This can sometimes lead to kidney failure and death, although this is rare. The risk of HUS is highest in children aged under 5 years [10]. There are 40,000 reported cases of E.Coli infections in the UK each year [11].

Salmonella is the pathogen that causes the most hospital admissions – about 2,500 each year [12]. Symptoms of food poisoning caused by salmonella include diarrhoea, fever and abdominal cramps. They typically develop 12 to 72 hours after infection and the illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days [13].

Listeria Monocytogenes causes the most food poisoning deaths [14] [15]. Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches and sometimes nausea and diarrhoea. If infection spreads to the nervous system symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance or convulsions can occur [16].

For a food business, food poisoning outbreaks can have devastating effects on their reputation, turnover and subsequent footfall. The business can incur food spoilage and wastage costs, as well as facing hefty fines and the risk of closure. Negative publicity and media attention is inevitable once the news of the incident spreads.

The FSA aims to control the number of food poisoning outbreaks by introducing the Food Hygiene Rating System (FHRS) also known as Scores on the Doors (SOTD). The scheme operates across the UK (Scotland known as the Food Hygiene Information Scheme) and helps customers choose where to eat by providing information on hygiene standards for takeaways, restaurants, pubs, cafes, food shops and supermarkets. The aim of the scheme is to enable consumers to make informed decisions on where they eat and shop and encourage businesses to improve hygiene standards [17].

A food safety officer from the local authority where the business is located will arrange an inspection to check it meets the requirements of food hygiene law. The officer will check how hygienically the food is handled, the condition of the structure of the building and how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe.

The hygiene standards are then rated on a scale of 0-5 with 0 being the lowest score and 5 being the highest [18].

93% of customers believe businesses fail to meet expectations by not cleaning every day [19]. "People want to know that the places where they are buying or eating their food are hygienic and safe… It is not easy to judge hygiene standards on appearance alone, so the rating gives people information of the hygiene practices in the kitchen.” Health Minister Mark Drakeford (2013) [20].

There’s no hiding a poor score - Ratings are searchable online and via a smartphone app provided by the FSA. Download the app from the website:

Food business owners are at risk of facing prosecution, imprisonment, fines and bans from premises or using equipment if they fail to meet hygiene standards and laws. A hygiene inspector has the authority to take enforcement action if necessary. It’s the law to ensure food prepared and served is safe to eat.

An overwhelming number of consumers (98%) want the law changed so it is compulsory for all food establishments in England to publicly display their Food Hygiene Ratings. A further 92% of diners say that displaying these ratings will make eating out safer by encouraging food establishments to improve their food hygiene and safety standards [21].

The media are exceptionally quick to pick up on negative food hygiene incidents and poor ratings and will exploit this to a business’ disadvantage. A poor rating can decrease footfall and turnover, increase insurance premiums, reduce brand perception, cause irreparable negative media damage and impair customer trust.

To avoid cross-contamination strict regulations are in place: under the Food Hygiene Regulation 2006 all ‘food handlers’ are required to be supervised, instructed, and trained in food hygiene practices.

Companies also need to adhere to a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, which introduces procedures to make sure the food produced is safe to eat. It identifies hazards in the workplace, such as moments when cross-contamination could occur, it calculates the likely incidence rate and establishes preventative control measures.

To prevent the spread of harmful bacteria, hand washing procedures should be incorporated as a critical element of a food establishment’s Food Safety Management Procedure, as poor personal hygiene accounts for 40% of food related outbreaks of illness [22].

Research demonstrates that hand hygiene compliance is not always where it needs to be. Some estimates show that 39% of food-handling staff do not wash their hands after visiting the toilet, while 53% do not wash their hands before preparing food [23] [24]. This lack of compliance with food hygiene legislation can have serious consequences for cross-contamination.

As bacteria and viruses can be spread easily through contact, this implicates serious consequences for cross-contamination of harmful pathogens on hands transferring to cleaning equipment including cloths and mops as well as directly to food, equipment and surfaces.

Food handlers can help to reduce food poisoning by either preventing contamination of foods or by preventing the growth or survival of bacteria [25].

It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure all cleaning operatives are fully trained in their role, to an accredited level and that they are introduced to the colour-code during their initial training.

One method of effectively controlling cross-contamination and increasing hygiene practices is through the implementation of a comprehensive colour-coded strategy. The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) first developed the universal colour-code in the 1990s.

You can use the advisory colour-coded system for a restaurant to help you get started:

Blue - General restaurant areas e.g. tables, trays etc…

Red - Washrooms, floors and toilets

Yellow - Disinfection of kitchen appliances e.g. ovens, knives etc...

Green - Kitchen and food preparation areas

White - General cleaning

The colour coordination of cleaning products can vary from business to business and the system you choose is entirely up to you. However, the above guide is the most broadly accepted system that the majority of catering establishment adhere to. The colour you assign to each area is your choice, so long as your staff members are trained on the system you choose.

As food premises must now conform to the Environmental Health Officer (EHO), the use of colour-coded cleaning equipment is particularly useful and has been widely adopted by the catering industry. The EHO handle complaints about food quality, hygiene and safety issues and ensure that people’s living and working surroundings are safe, healthy and hygienic [26].

Implementing a workplace colour system can make cleaning easy and increase overall hygiene and cleanliness.

A colour-coded cleaning system to segregate areas and surfaces will prevent the use of a single cleaning item such as a cloth from being used on every surface in a restaurant for example in the toilets and then in food preparation areas. This carries with it an inherent risk of cross-contamination and consequently, illness.

Colour-coded cloths can help control the risk of cross-contamination by identifying use in different areas and on different surfaces.

All of our colour-coded range of cloths are Food Contact Clearance (FCC) approved and conform to HACCP standards*. With a range of formats, textures and thicknesses available, we have a cloth to meet every food service cleaning requirement. *(Except for Stronghold Microfibre and Super Heavy Weight cloths - these products are not FCC approved.)

All Purpose Lightweight (APW)

At 35gsm, our APW cloths provide unbeatable value for cost effective wiping. Available in 4 colours to offer crucial HACCP compliance and cross-contamination control. Small apertures in the material provide food and dirt pick-up, good absorbency and bulk.

Hygiene Heavy Duty (HYG)

Our super long-lasting heavy weight cloth offers incredible absorption, tremendous strength and durability and has antibacterial properties to inhibit bacterial growth on the cloth. With 5 colours available to meet HACCP standards and reduce the risks of cross-contamination, the HYG is more than equipped to tackle the toughest of food service tasks and increase hygiene levels.

Chicopee® J-Cloth® Plus Biodegradable

J-Cloth® Plus Biodegradable delivers the most effective green cleaning solution for and food service establishments where environmentally friendly cleaning is a priority.

The unique design and product features of the J-Cloth® Plus Biodegradable are based on the most renowned cleaning wipe, the J-Cloth® Plus. Its open, wavy texture enables efficient pick-up of dirt and food and makes it easy to rinse, ensuring the cloth stays fresher for longer.

Additionally, the cloth is both 100% compostable and biodegradable in accordance with the DIN EN 13432 200-12 standard. Because the J-Cloth® Plus Biodegradable is compostable and biodegradable it ensures environmentally aware waste management.


Although our traditional woven colour-coded microfibre cloths are not FCC approved, they are ideal for janitorial areas. Colour-coded microfibre cloths can easily identify visual confirmation of use in different departments and surface areas. For instance, green cloths can be used for handling uncooked foods and blue cloths for cooked foods.

The risk of cross-contamination, and subsequent consequences, can be significantly reduced through the implementation of a consistent and comprehensive colour-coded wiping system.

Food Hygiene – It’s the Law

It’s the law to ensure food prepared and served is safe to eat. The implementation of comprehensive food hygiene practices will ensure compliance with the law and a top hygiene rating of 5.

A food premises with a rating of 5 can ensure compliance with the law, increase footfall and turnover, improve positive brand associations, create positive PR, increase consumer trust and confidence and win new customers in an increasingly competitive market.


[1] NHS., 2012. HES on… Food Poisoning. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[2] FSA., 2012. Available from: <> [Accessed: 09/09/2014].

[3] Sedgemoor Council. Food Poisoning. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[4] FSA., 2017. Campylobacter. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[5] FSA, 2015. Up to one third of people at risk from campylobacter food poisoning during their lifetime. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[6] FSA., 2011. Norovirus. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[7] Mayo Clinic., 2017. Norovirus Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[8] CDC., 2017. Clostridium perfringens. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[9] FSA., 2014. New UK food poisoning figures published. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[10] NHS., 2015. Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[11] BBC News., 2015. E.coli infections ‘rise by 1,000’ across England. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[12] Patient., 2016. Salmonella Gastroenteritis. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[13] Web MD., 2017. Salmonellosis – Topic Overview. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[14] FSA., 2017. Foodborne disease strategy. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[15] Food Safety Watch., 2013. Listeria. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[16] Web MD., 2017. Food poisoning topic overview. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[17] FSA., 2017. Frequently asked questions about the food hygiene rating scheme. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[18] FSA., 2017. Frequently asked questions about the food hygiene rating scheme. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[19] FRY Magazine., 2014. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2016].

[20] Food Standards Agency., 2013. Displaying your Rating is good for business. FSA Business Tool Kit.

[21] Fry Magazine., 2016. Diners demand compulsory display of food hygiene ratings. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[22] Dewaal et al., 2006. Foods Associated with Food-borne Illness Outbreaks from 1990 through 2003. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[23] Hand Inspection., 2017. The Important of hand washing within the Hospitality and Leisure Industry. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[24] FSA., 2013. Hand Washing and Food Safety. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].

[25] Clayton, D. A., Griffith, C. J., Price, P. and Peters, A. C. (July 2010), Food handlers' beliefs and self-reported practices pp.25-39 Published Online: 21 July 2010, <Available from:> [Accessed 24/01/2017].

[26] EHO., 2017. EHO Inspections. Available from: <> [Accessed: 02/02/2017].