Preparing and cooking food safely

27 February 2020

Healthy Eating

No-one wants a bout of food poisoning. Follow these safety and hygiene tips from the NHS Live Well campaign to ensure the food you prepare is safe, and stay healthy.

Washing hands

Our hands are one of the main ways that germs are spread. Harmful bacteria can be spread very easily from people’s hands to food, work surfaces and equipment. It’s always important to wash them thoroughly with soap and warm water before handling food, and especially after touching raw food, the bin, pets, and going to the toilet.

Storing and preparing meat

Raw meat, including poultry, can contain harmful bacteria that can spread easily to anything it touches, including food, worktops, tables, chopping boards, and knives.Take particular care to keep raw food separate from ready-to-eat foods such as bread, salad and fruit. These foods won’t be cooked before you eat them, so any germs that get on to them won’t be killed.


Cooking food at the right temperature will ensure any harmful bacteria are killed. Check that food’s steaming hot throughout before you eat it.The foods below need to be cooked thoroughly before eating:

Burgers and sausages

When cooking burgers, sausages, chicken, and pork, cut into the middle to check that the meat’s no longer pink, the juices run clear and it’s steaming hot throughout.


When cooking a whole chicken or bird, pierce the thickest part of the leg (between the drumstick and the thigh) to check there’s no pink meat and the juices are no longer pink or red.


Pork joints and rolled joints shouldn’t be eaten pink or rare. To check when these types of joint are ready to eat, put a skewer into the centre of the meat and check there’s no pink meat and the juices run clear.

Beef and lamb

It’s safe to serve steak and other whole cuts of beef and lamb rare (not cooked in the middle) or blue (seared on the outside) as long as they have been properly sealed by cooking them quickly at a high temperature on the outside only. Bacteria is usually only found on the outer surfaces of these types of meat.

Acrylamide in starchy food

Acrylamide is a chemical that’s created when many foods, particularly starchy foods like potatoes and bread, are cooked at high temperatures (over 120C), such as when baking, frying, grilling, toasting, and roasting. Boiling, steaming and microwave cooking are unlikely to create acrylamide. There’s evidence to show acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer.

The Food Standards Agency has the following tips to reduce your risk of acrylamide at home:

Washing fruit and vegetables

Wash fruit and vegetables under cold running water before you eat them. This helps remove visible dirt and germs that may be on the surface. Peeling or cooking fruit and vegetables can also remove these germs. Never use washing-up liquid or other household cleaning products to clean fruit and vegetables, as they’re not intended for human consumption and you may accidentally leave some of the product on the food.


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