Food Hygiene and Safety

What are the 4 c’s of Food Safety? A Detailed Overview

Ricky Kambray
Ricky Kambray

When it comes to food safety, it’s important to understand the key elements that help ensure that the food we consume is safe and free from harmful contaminants. One approach to food safety that has gained widespread recognition is the “4 c’s of Food Safety.” 

The four C’s of food safety are –

  • Cleaning, 
  • Cooking,
  • Chilling, 
  • And Cross-contamination prevention. 

Each of these elements plays a crucial role in minimising the risk of contamination at all stages of the food production process. 

In this write-up, we’ll look closer at the 4 Cs of food safety and provide tips on implementing best practices to ensure food safety.

 Doctor writing word food safety with marker


What are the 4 C’s of Food Safety?

The 4 C’s of food safety are cleaning, cooking, chilling, and cross-contamination prevention, all of which are crucial in preventing the spread of harmful bacteria and pathogens in food. 

These were developed by the US Food and Drug Administration in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other organisations, based on extensive research and data on foodborne illnesses and the factors contributing to their spread. 

Importance of 4 C’s in Food Safety

Here are some reasons why the 4 Cs of food safety are essential:

Prevent hazardous bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that can cause foodborne diseases.
Offer a simple framework that everybody involved in the food production chain, including food producers, handlers, and consumers, can simply understand and follow.
Applicable to a variety of food production environments, including —

  • commercial kitchens, 
  • restaurants, 
  • and home kitchens.
Reduce the risk of contamination at all phases of the food manufacturing process.
Reduce hospitalisations due to foodborne diseases.
Minimise losses in a nation’s economic gains.

Overall, following the four principles of food safety (Cleaning, Cooking, Cross-contamination prevention, and Chilling) can help prevent food safety problems like food poisoning and ensure that we can safely enjoy our food.

Besides, if you’re responsible for food production, understanding the 7 HACCP principles is crucial to getting a grip on the 4 Cs of food safety. These principles are all about spotting and managing hazards in food production. By getting a handle on them, you’ll get the hang of applying the 4 Cs (Clean, Cook, Chill, Prevent Cross-Contamination) in a way that keeps food safe and keeps illnesses at bay.

How to Ensure Food Safety with 4c’s?

Now, let’s delve into the specifics of these four fundamental elements of food safety individually.

 Girl wiping electric induction stove top



Cleaning involves properly washing and sanitising all surfaces, equipment, and utensils used in food preparation. Proper cleaning is essential to stop the growth of harmful bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that can cause foodborne illness.

Follow these basic guidelines to ensure effective cleaning:

    • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling food.
    • Clean all surfaces, equipment, and utensils used in food preparation with hot, soapy water and sanitise with a bleach-water solution or a commercial sanitiser.
    • Clean and sanitise cutting boards and knives after each use.
  • Look for disinfectant products that meet the BS EN standards, indicated by the codes BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697 on the label.
  • Keep all food in clean, covered containers to prevent infection.

Use the Right Materials for the Job

  • Use detergents such as washing up liquids to dissolve grease, oil and dirt.
  • Use bleach or anti-bacterial cleaners to kill germs, but be careful as these are strong agents and should not be used indiscriminately.
  • Finally, always read and follow the instructions on disinfectants and anti-bacterial cleaners, or they won’t work properly.

Do Things Right

  • Give your kitchen a thorough cleaning occasionally.
  • First, clean surfaces with detergent to remove grease or dirt, then use disinfectant to kill germs.
  • Use separate clothes or sponges for different tasks. If reusing, wash them in hot, soapy water, disinfect, rinse well, and let dry. Don’t soak them overnight, as disinfectant solutions can weaken and allow bacteria to grow.

Besides, discover the Kitchen Safety Rules you need to know with our comprehensive list of Kitchen Dos and Don’ts.

Grilled meat on bbq with hand holding meat cooking thermometer to check if steak is ready



Cooking entails properly cooking food to the correct temperature to kill harmful bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause foodborne illness. The proper cooking temperature varies according to the type of food being made. 

Have a look at some of the commonly recommended temperatures-

  • Cook ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb to 160°F (71°C) internal temperature.
  • Cook poultry to 165°F (74°C) internal temperature.
  • Cook fish and seafood to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).
  • Reheat leftovers and casseroles to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Do Things Right

  • Pre-heat the oven before cooking.
  • Check that food is hot before serving.
  • Cook sausages, burgers, pork, and poultry well and avoid serving them if they are still pink in the middle.
  • Keep cooked food covered and hot (above 63°C) until ready to eat.
  • Stir and let microwave food stand for a few minutes to avoid hot or cold spots.
  • When reheating food, ensure to cook it well until it is steaming hot throughout and keep in mind that it can only be reheated once.
  • A food thermometer is necessary to confirm that the food has reached the ideal temperature because the colour of the food alone is not a reliable indicator of whether it has been cooked to the correct temperature.

If you’re in charge of food production, ensuring top-notch hygiene is a must. Taking the Achieving Food Hygiene Rating Level 5 Training is a smart step, especially while following the 4 Cs of food safety. This course equips you with crucial skills for food safety and proper handling. Earning a top-level food hygiene rating builds trust with customers and enhances your business reputation, paving the way for success.

Foods organised in the fridge



Chilling entails preserving food at the optimum temperature to prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms that can cause foodborne illness.

Food that needs to be chilled to prevent them from rotting includes –

  • food with a use-by date, 
  • cooked dishes, 
  • and ready-to-eat foods like salads and desserts.

Do Things Right

To ensure food safety:

  • Refrigerate perishable foods immediately, 
  • Cool cooked food quickly and then keep it in the fridge, 
  • Keep chilled food out of the refrigerator for the least amount of time possible during preparation,
  • Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, microwave, or under cold running water – never at room temperature.

Fridge Temperature

  • Keep cold food at 8˚C or below as it is a legal requirement in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
  • Set the fridge at 5˚C to maintain a proper temperature for the food.
  • Regularly checking the fridge and any display units to ensure they maintain a cold enough temperature is crucial.

Close-up of E coli contamination in romaine lettuce


Cross-contamination Prevention

Cross-contamination prevention entails stopping the transmission of harmful bacteria and other microorganisms from one food to another. This can occur when raw meat, poultry, or seafood comes into touch with other foods, surfaces, or utensils.

Here are some tips to avoid cross-contamination:

How to Prevent Cross-contamination

  • Clean and disinfect work surfaces, equipment, and chopping boards before and after using them to prepare raw food.
  • Use different equipment for raw meat/poultry and ready-to-eat food, or disinfect them if using the same equipment.
  • Keep raw food separate from ready-to-eat food in the fridge by storing them in different compartments or using separate fridges.
  • Provide separate preparation areas, storage facilities, clothing, and staff for ready-to-eat food.
  • Thoroughly disinfect shared preparation areas between handling raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Train your staff on how to avoid cross-contamination.

Understanding “Food Poisoning: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment” is directly connected to the 4 Cs of food safety – Clean, Cook, Chill, and Prevent Cross-Contamination. Knowing about food poisoning helps you apply these principles effectively to keep your food safe. By practising proper hygiene, cooking food well, keeping it chilled, and avoiding cross-contamination, you’re preventing the risks of foodborne illnesses and promoting safe eating.

Discover the 4 types of food contamination and protect your family’s health with our comprehensive guide.

Wrapping Up

Understanding and implementing the 4 C’s of food safety is crucial in ensuring our food is safe and healthy for consumption. Following these simple yet effective guidelines can reduce the risk of foodborne diseases and allow us to enjoy our meals with peace of mind. Remember, food safety starts with you, so always prioritise safety in the kitchen.


How many times can you safely reheat food according to FDA?

The FDA recommends reheating food only once and to a temperature of at least 165°F (74°C) to make sure that any harmful bacteria that may have grown on the food have been destroyed.

Are bacteria in food always harmful?

Not all food bacteria are harmful. Some are necessary for producing foods like cheese and yoghurt, but some harmful bacteria cause foodborne diseases, making it crucial to practice food safety.

What is food safety?

Food safety ensures food is free from harmful contaminants or pathogens that can cause illness. This includes proper handling, preparation, and storage of food, as well as measures to prevent cross-contamination and maintain hygiene.

What is the 4-hour rule for food safety in the UK?

In the UK, the 4-hour rule in food safety states that perishable food should be eaten or refrigerated within 4 hours to prevent bacterial growth and food poisoning.


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Ricky Kambray

Hey this is Ricky Kambray an award-winning first-aid trainer with over 20 years of healthcare and teaching expertise. Highly certified general nurse regularly appears in the press discussing accident prevention and first aid advice.