What are the 4Cs of food safety?

Table of Contents

Today, I want to talk about the 4 c’s of food safety.

4 Cs

The 4C’s of food safety are the 4 key topics that you should understand and remember if you are running a food business and serving food. Following these will help to prevent the most common food safety problems, ensure good food hygiene and ultimately prevent food poisoning and food borne illnesses. It will also help you to ensure a good food hygiene rating for your food establishment.

By the end of this blog, you will have a good understanding of each of the 4C’s and the common issues I’ve seen as an Environmental Health Officer.


4cs cross contamination

Preventing cross contamination is essential to prevent food poisoning. It is where bacteria transfers from raw food (i.e. raw meat) to a cooked food or ready to eat food.

During your inspection, the EHO is going to be observing to see how your business prevents cross contamination between raw food and cooked foods/ ready to eat food at all stages, including storage and preparing food. They will want to see that you follow safe and proper food hygiene practices.

Here are some steps you can take to prevent cross contamination between raw and cooked foods:

  • In fridges and freezers, store raw foods (i.e. raw meat) separately from cooked and ready to eat foods. Also, use sealed containers or thoroughly wrap items.
  • Use separate work surfaces and equipment (i.e chopping boards) for raw foods and cooked foods. Thoroughly clean and disinfect these items before and after use.
  • Wash fruit, vegetables and salad items thoroughly to remove any harmful bacteria.
  • Ensure food handlers follow good hygiene practices and wash their hands regularly (i.e. after handling raw foods and before handling cooked food).

Common issues

Cross-contamination issues in food businesses often arise due to food handling staff not being trained in how to avoid cross-contamination. For example; during a food hygiene inspection, I’ve seen staff panic to get food into the fridge and as a result, put raw meat on the top shelf next to ready to eat foods.


4cs cleaning

Effective cleaning is essential to get rid of harmful bacteria and prevent cross-contamination.

Here are some tips for effective cleaning:

  • Clean as you go, keep your kitchen clean and tidy, wipe any spillages immediately and remove waste regularly.
  • Clean and disinfect food preparation surfaces, equipment and utensils between tasks. This is especially important to kill germs after preparing raw foods (i.e. raw meats).
  • Use the right materials and cleaning chemicals and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Ensure that disinfectants or sanitisers are food-safe and meet either BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697. You should find this on the product label, if in doubt, check with your supplier.
  • It is good practice to use a cleaning schedule so that your team know what needs to be cleaned, when and the method for cleaning.
  • Single use, disposable cloths are recommended. If reusable cloths are used, these should be changed after each use and washed in hot water (above 82°C).

Common issues

Here are the main issues relating to use of sanitisers/ disinfectants:

  • Sanitiser does not comply with BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697 or the business is unsure. Make sure you check this and have the info ready to show to the EHO.
  • Staff are not aware of the contact time. The contact time is how long the product needs on a surface to reduce bacteria to a safe level. You can normally find this on the product label.
  • If your sanitiser/ disinfectant requires dilution, make sure the staff who are responsible for doing this know the correct concentration of chemical and water.


4cs chilling

Keep chilled foods below 8°C (ideally between 1°C and 5°C) this will stop harmful bacteria growing to levels high enough to cause food borne illnesses. During preparation, keep chilled food out of the fridge for the shortest time possible.

  • Keep frozen food frozen and put deliveries of frozen products away immediately.
  • Food must be thoroughly defrosted before cooking (unless the instructions advise it may be cooked from frozen). The safest method for defrosting food is in the refrigerator.
  • Ensure that hot foods are cooled down safely. Hot foods should never be put straight into the fridge or freezer as this can result in the temperature of all of the food in the appliance rising to an unsafe level. Here are some methods that you can use to chill down hot food quickly and safely:
    • Divide food into smaller portions.
    • Loosely cover pans of hot food and stand them in cold water.
    • Stir food regularly to release steam.
    • Move it to a colder area (e.g., a larder).
    • Use a blast chiller.
    • Cut large joints of meat into smaller sizes.

Common issues

During inspections, I have found food in fridges that are above 8°C. The business was unaware of this because they had not been doing regular temperature checks. Make sure you are regularly checking the temperatures of food in your fridges so that you can discover any problems and take the appropriate action.


4cs cooking

Cooking food thoroughly until it is piping hot is important to kill bacteria and is critical to ensure safe food. The Food Standards Agency provides guidance as to safe cooking times and temperature combinations to ensure food is properly cooked. The centre of the food should reach one of the following temperatures for at least the time given:

  • 60°C – 45 minutes
  • 65°C – 10 minutes
  • 70°C – 2 minutes
  • 75°C – 30 seconds

Food must also be reheated thoroughly until it is steaming hot all the way through and it should never be reheated more than once. If using a microwave for reheating food, stir foods and allow them to stand for a couple of minutes to avoid hot or cold spots.

A clean food thermometer should be used to check the internal temperature of cooked and reheated foods to ensure they are the correct temperature and piping hot all the way through.

If you need to keep food hot before serving, you should use suitable equipment. You can keep food below 63°C for one period of up to 2 hours. After this time, it must be thrown away or cooled down quickly and refrigerated below 8°C.

Common issues

A common issue I have come across is food handlers not being able to answer the question, “what core temperature do you look for when checking food is cooked?”. Any staff who cook food should be able to answer this. Sometimes it can be nerves and people’s minds go blank. Make sure your staff are ready to answer this question accurately and confidently.





“How to get your 5-star food hygiene rating.”

Written by Chartered Environmental Health Officer, Natalie Stanton.

Includes a 50-point inspection checklist!

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