Personal hygiene and food safety

Food handlers and food businesses have responsibilities to ensure that the food is not contaminated by the personal hygiene or health of food handlers.

A food handler is anyone who handles food or items that may come into contact with food, such as eating and drinking utensils.

Hand washing

It is important to regularly wash and dry hands thoroughly and especially:

  • before starting food preparation
  • after handling raw meats or eggs
  • after using the toilet

The need for thorough drying of your hands should not be overlooked. If hands remain damp it is easy for moisture, which can contain harmful bacteria or viruses, to be transferred to food or food contact surfaces.

Food businesses are responsible for ensuring that appropriate hand washing facilities are available for use.


Many food poisoning incidents are caused by food handlers who have continued to handle food after falling ill themselves.

You should not handle food if you:

  • know you are suffering from food poisoning
  • are a carrier of food poisoning (someone who does not show any symptoms but is still ill)
  • have any symptoms of food poisoning.

If you do handle food, it is possible for you to pass it onto others. It is best not to handle food for a further 48 hours after symptoms have ceased as you could still be spreading large numbers of the food poisoning causing bacteria.

Personal hygiene

When preparing or cooking food for others, it is recommended to take precautions to ensure that food or surfaces that come in contact with food are not contaminated by your body or anything that you are wearing. Examples include hair, saliva, mucus, sweat, blood, fingernails, clothes, jewellery or bandages.

Gloves can be worn as a way to help ensure food is not contaminated by bare hands. It is important to remember that gloves should be changed as often as you would wash your hands. Also, you should still wash your hands before handling food even though you are wearing gloves.