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Logo: Western University Canada
Logo: Hospitality at Western University

Food Safety Tips

Topics: Knife / Chill / Clean / Cook / Separate

Hospitality Services staff handle knives on a daily basis to prepare food for students, staff and faculty in all campus eateries and residence dining halls. Western's Knife Safety Program has been developed to provide additional support to our staff on the safe handling and use of knives in kitchen work environments. To complete the Knife Safety training, please visit the Required Training webpage.

See knife safety tips here.


Refrigerate or freeze perishables and prepared food and leftovers within two hours. Make sure the refrigerator is set at a temperature of 4°C (40°F) or colder, and keep the freezer set at -18°C (0°F).

It's not safe to defrost at room temperature. The best way to defrost food is to thaw it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

The best way to keep food in the refrigerator cold is not to fill it up. By leaving some room, the cold air can circulate around the food and keep it cold.

Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave if you will be cooking it immediately. If thawing in cold water, replace water every 30 minutes.

Cold foods should be kept at 4°C (40°F) or colder.


Always wash your hands, utensils and cooking surfaces with soap and hot water before you handle food, repeatedly while you prepare it, and again when you've finished. Wash and sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils with an approved sanitizer and water solution. All produce should be washed under cool running water prior to eating or cooking.

When cooking, don't forget to wash and sanitize your food thermometer after each use - especially between testing different foods.

How long should you wash your hands in warm, soapy water to send bacteria down the drain?: 5, 10, 15, or 20 seconds. The answer is 20 seconds. Click here for the Hospitality Services proper hand washing policy.

To help reduce the risk of foodborne illness, always follow the Hospitality Services hand washing policy. Click here for policy.

You can't tell if a food is contaminated with harmful organisms by looking at it, smelling it or tasting it. When in doubt - throw it out!

After you use tongs to handle raw food, you need to wash and sanitize tongs and all utensils after each use to prevent transferring harmful organisms from raw food to cooked food.

Raw meat and seafood shouldn't be washed before cooking since this could spread harmful organisms to kitchen surfaces and to other foods (cross contamination).

Before you open canned food, you should wash the lid of the can before you open it to prevent dust, dirt or harmful organisms from getting into the can.

Don't forget to properly wash can openers after each use to keep them clean since this can cross contaminate the next can you open.

To prevent cross contamination, it's very important to properly clean and sanitize cutting boards used for raw meat and seafood before you use them for other purposes.

Wash the cutting board thoroughly with soap and hot water, then sanitize with an approved sanitizer and water solution.

You can also use the dishwasher to wash cutting boards, Set the cycle for a full wash. Your dishwasher should wash at a hot enough temperature to kill harmful organisms.

Wash fresh fruits and vegetables with clean running water to remove any surface dirt, sand and harmful organisms.

Fruits and vegetables that have firm, rough surfaces such as melons or potatoes, should be washed and scrubbed using a clean produce scrub brush before preparing or eating them.

Detergents are not intended for use on foods as they can be absorbed by produce or leave a surface residue. Use only clean running water and a produce scrub brush, if necessary.

Always wash fruits and vegetables that have rind that you can peel, such as squash, melons, pineapple and oranges, before peeling even though you don't eat the rind.


Prepare foods quickly, cook them thoroughly, and serve them immediately. Don't let foods linger at temperatures where bacteria can grow. The danger zone is between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F).

Use a clean thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked foods, to make sure meat, poultry, egg dishes, casseroles and other foods are cooked all the way through. Insert the thermometer in different spots to ensure even cooking. Wash your food thermometer with hot, soapy water before using it again. Sanitize it for the safest results.

Hot food should be kept hot at a minimum of 60°C (140°F) to prevent the growth of harmful organisms. Use a digital food thermometer to check the temperature.

Cold food should be kept cold by keeping it at or below 4°C (40°F). Use digital food thermometers and refrigerator thermometers to check the temperature.

Keep perishable food out of the danger zone by keeping it at or below 4°C (40°F) or by keeping it at or above 60°C (140°F) to slow the growth of harmful organisms.

The best way to tell if a hamburger is cooked is to use a digital food thermometer. For a burger, insert the thermometer sideways into each patty. It is done at 74°C (165°F)!

Cooking food to safe internal temperatures destroys harmful organisms that may be present, and helps prevent foodborne illness.

Hamburgers and all food made with ground beef like meatloaf, lasagna and meatballs should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 74°C (165°F).

It is unsafe to eat your hamburgers rare. All foods made with ground beef need to be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) to prevent foodborne illness.

Food is cooked safely when it reaches an internal temperature high enough to kill harmful organisms that cause foodborne illness.

To check the temperature of a food, you need to insert a digital food thermometer into the thickest part of the food, away from fat, bone or gristle.

Leftovers such as soup, stew, sauce, gravy and chili should be heated to a full rolling boil. Once the leftovers have boiled, cool it until it's comfortable for you to eat.


Keep certain foods, like meats and their juices, separated from others during storage and preparation. Keep separate cutting boards for raw meats and vegetables. Always keep foods covered.

Make sure to keep raw food separate from cooked and ready-to-eat food.

When shopping, put raw meat and seafood in separate plastic bags and place them away from other items in your grocery cart.

To avoid cross contamination, defrost raw foods in covered containers on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so they can't touch or drip onto other food.

Do not use raw meat marinade on your cooked food unless it's boiled for 1 minute while stirring. Eating raw meat marinade can cause foodborne illness.

To prevent foodborne illness, don't use the same place (or utensils) for raw and cooked meat. Harmful organisms that may be in raw meat can contaminate safely cooked food.

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