Colour Coding For Food Safety - Help and Tips

Biological contamination is by far the most frequent cause of food contamination in Europe, accounting for millions of food related illnesses per year. The presence of harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses can turn an otherwise delicious meal into a potentially life-threatening experience.


One of the most common ways this contamination occurs is through cross-contamination - the transfer of harmful bacteria from one food product to another by way of dirty utensils, including cutting boards, knives and thermometers.  Since most bacteria are killed during the cooking process, at temperatures in excess of 75°C), the risk of cross contamination is highest when bacteria from food items that need to be cooked come in contact with foods that don't.


Eliminating cross contamination requires good food safety habits such as frequent washing of hands, utensils and work surfaces. Many professional kitchens also colour code tools that are used for different foods, such as raw poultry or fresh vegetables, so cross contamination is less likely to occur.


Colour coded equipment can help a kitchen minimise contamination without affecting efficiency. Red handled knives or cutting boards are typically used with raw protein products such as beef, poultry and fish. Green is used for raw vegetables and white with other food products. However, some restaurants will go so far as to separate the protein items and assign yellow utensils for poultry.


Another added benefit of using colour coded food prep utensils is the prevention of taste contamination and the transfer of potential allergens. No one wants the juices left over from a steak mixed with their chicken breast, or a pork loin to come in contact with any kind of shellfish.


Clear colour codes can help staff maintain a high food safety standard that will keep customers safe and coming back for more. This is especially important in an industry where employee turnover rates are so high. A simple colour code system means new hires can plug into a team quickly without managers having to worry about food safety compromises. Colour coding the food preparation process will help make a kitchen run more efficiently and safely.


While many kitchen tools are colour coded, the vast majority are not - including many food thermometers. However, the ETI Thermapen, has 13 standard colours to choose from, including those found on the colour code food safety chart, and is perfect for keeping bacteria from cross-contamination at bay.


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