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What are the four C’s of food hygiene?

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As a responsible food handler, knowing the four C’s of food hygiene is essential for compliance with food hygiene standards and regulations. The consequences of not doing so? Well, whichever way you look at it, the chances are your food business will struggle to survive.  

But, we’re not here to scaremonger, we’re here to assist and help provide an understanding (or a refresher) of these important food hygiene principles. Also known as the four basic principles of food safety, follow these four crucial steps and you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your food business is always compliant with food hygiene standards.

Why good food safety practices are so important 

Everybody enjoys going out for a bite to eat, whether it’s a quick snack from a local bakery or an evening meal at a stylish restaurant located in the city. We all cook at home too, and we’re aware of the importance of food safety. 

So, what’s the point we’re trying to make? Essentially, food hygiene principles can and should be practised in any environment where food is stored and prepared. Nobody wants to purchase food from a business with a reputation for being unclean, and if that were the case, the adverse impact on your revenue and your business would soon become apparent. 

We do understand that it can be a little more difficult to determine what measures are needed to prevent hazards and illnesses from spreading. The next section in this blog will help give you all the information you need about the four C’s of food hygiene.

The four C’s of food hygiene

Using the four C’s approach is one of the best ways to meet compliance standards and safeguard your business from the most common food safety hazards and problems. 


It goes without saying that cleaning is a must in any area where food has been prepared or stored. The spread of germs can lead to foodborne illnesses, so thorough cleansing of your kitchen or food preparation spaces is the best and only way to suppress this and reduce risk. Equally, foodborne illnesses can be highly resistant to atmospheric conditions, such as heat, meaning they carry a persistent threat that can linger in food sources or water for several weeks. 

So, what are the best measures to take to ensure your kitchen is squeaky clean? The obvious starting point is to ensure that hands are regularly washed before, during, and after any contact with food. Hot, soapy water is always the first recommendation. Using an antibacterial soap and making sure you wash the full extent of your forearms is the most effective and thorough way to wash your hands. 

Other basic cleaning measures to ensure good food hygiene safety include: 

  • Cleaning and disinfecting food areas and equipment during the ongoing process of your food preparation or cooking
  • Always ensure the cleaning and disinfection products you use are appropriate for their intended use. BS EN 1276 and BS EN 13697 are cleaning products certified by European standards
  • Ensure that any food waste is disposed of safely and correctly
  • Create a schedule of cleaning duties that must be carried out at the necessary times


Cooking can be a great way to unwind and is a pastime enjoyed by millions. But, it’s also essential that it is done properly to kill bacteria so that the food you prepare is safe to be consumed. 

There are many different types of food that require a different approach during the cooking stage. Raw food, such as meat and fish is classified as high-risk. It is imperative to the safety of your customers that this food is cooked sufficiently, so it isn’t raw and kills all bacteria and any harmful pathogens. 

You can also check the temperature of food using a clean probe. Depending on the type of food you are cooking will determine the temperature that must be reached. Below is a list of safe time and temperature combinations to consider when using a temperature probe. 

  • 80°C - for a minimum of 6 seconds 
  • 75°C  - for a minimum of 30 seconds 
  • 70°C - for a minimum of 2 minutes 
  • 65°C - for a minimum of 10 minutes 
  • 60°C - for a minimum of 45 minutes


Sadly, this isn’t the part where you can relax and have some downtime. In food safety, chilling is something entirely different! The chilling process is important to conduct with certain types of food to negate any reproduction or bacterial spread. Fresh and any open food are much more likely to be exposed to small amounts of bacteria. Keeping them in a refrigerated environment prevents this process from happening, meaning your food items are safer for longer. 

Any items kept in the fridge should be kept below 5°C. It’s always good practice to keep checking the temperature of your fridge, as it can be easy for the dial to be adjusted if your fridge is rather full. Being diligent will prevent food from going off quickly, leading to costly and unwanted food wastage. 

We recommend following these guidelines to ensure your food items are chilled correctly: 

  • Follow storage instructions
  • Always store any food that needs to be chilled immediately
  • Ensure any food that is removed during prep times is kept out for a minimum length of time
  • Conduct regular temperature checks on your fridge and any display units


Each of the four C’s of food hygiene is extremely important, but cross-contamination is arguably the most critical. It combines aspects from the three other food hygiene principles, as storing the wrong types of food together can mean your cleaning, cooking and chilling processes are all in vain. Cross-contamination can occur between food, surfaces or equipment, so it’s vitally important to bear in mind the measures deployed throughout your kitchen. 

There are many scenarios where cross-contamination can occur, so it’s important to clean utensils, ensure chopping or preparing boards are used for their intended use only and store food separately and correctly. An example could be a raw chicken breast coming into contact with a prepared salad. A correct food storage measure would be to ensure all meats are stored at the bottom of the fridge. This would reduce the chances of any juices dripping from the meat and onto any other food items. 

Effective cross-contamination measures benefit your customers and staff members too, reducing the likelihood of any foodborne illnesses spreading. 

Taking the following precautions will also help to prevent cross-contamination: 

  • Clean and disinfect work surfaces thoroughly, including chopping boards, utensils and any sharp instruments
  • Frequently wash your hands
  • Use different chopping boards for different food types
  • Separate raw food from food that is ready to be consumed
  • Ensure you have separated food preparation stations from any storage facilities
  • Use different equipment and machinery for raw and ready-to-eat food
  • Provide different cleaning products if there is more than one area
  • Ensure your staff have undergone cross-contamination training

Our Level 2 food hygiene course is a great introduction for any staff members who require a brush-up on their food safety knowledge. Check out the section below for more details on this.

Learn about food hygiene principles with our range of courses

If our overview of the 4 C’s of food hygiene has been useful, then you may find lots more great value in our range of courses. We offer the following courses for food hygiene: 

If you want to gain an all-rounded understanding, then our food hygiene course bundle is a combination of all three courses rolled into one package. It gives you a complete insight into the world of food hygiene. 

Ready to get started? Claim your free, no-obligation trial to any of our courses today or request a bespoke quote and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss your training needs.