Handling & Distributing Food

This worksheet aims to inform community groups who are handling food, how to do so safely and responsibly. 

As the proprietor of a food business, profitable or not, you must ensure that all food is supplied or sold in a hygienic way, identify food hazards, ensure safety controls are in place and know which steps in your activities are critical for food safety.

Links for more information

Food Safety – your responsibilities
The UK Government web page informing food proprietors of their responsibilities around food safety.

Food Hygiene Rules and Guidance
High Speed Training provide basic guidance for good food hygiene and good practice around food handling and food hazards.

Distance selling, mail order and delivery
The Food Standards Agency offer guidance on how to manage a food business if you sell products online, for take away or for delivery.

Personal Hygiene

  • It is essential to correctly wash your hands to prevent contamination.

  • When washing your hands, always use a specialist basin provided (using the sink used for washing equipment or food can lead to contamination).

  • Once wet, soap should be rubbed into hands, ensuring each hand is cleaned, including the fingertips, between the fingers and the wrist and forearm. You should spend 15 – 20 seconds rubbing the soap in.

  • Hands should be dried in a hygienic manner by using an air dryer or paper towel. You should avoid using cloths, tea towels or aprons as this can lead to contamination.

  • You should not wear watches or jewellery as they can gather dirt and bacteria which could drop into food. Avoid strong smelling perfumes and heavy makeup, as these can taint food products.

  • Anybody suffering from the following illnesses should NOT handle food: Diarrhoea or vomiting, skin infections or heavy colds or discharges from the eyes or ears.

Food Hazards

  • Keep raw and high-risk foods separate.

  • Keep foods out of the temperature danger zone – below 5°C or above 63°C.

  • Make sure you use utensils to make sure that food is handled as little as possible.

  • Keep raw foods away from foods that could be contaminated by them.

  • To kill bacteria, food must be cooked thoroughly (at least 70°C for 2 minutes). If food is not to be eaten immediately and kept hot, it is necessary to use equipment which will hold the food at a temperature of 63°C or above.

Preventing Cross-contamination

  • Immediately clean work surfaces where raw meat and poultry have been handled.

  • If utensils and equipment has been used for the preparation of raw foods, keep them separate from those which have not. If this is not possible, they must be washed and disinfected before being used on other foods

  • Maintain a high standard of cleanliness of worktops and equipment.

  • Keep separate chopping boards and cloths for use with different kinds of food.

  • Keep cloths used in raw food areas out of other areas. Use a disposable cloth where possible.

  • Disinfect cloths regularly.

Chilling and Freezing Food

  • The freezer should be operating at a maximum temperature of -18°C.

  • Check the temperature of your fridge regularly and record it. Ideally it should be 1°C – 4°C. Do not leave the door open for long periods of time.

  • Do not fill over the load line in a freezer. Label all foods with the correct dates and rotate accordingly.

  • If you don’t have a separate fridge for raw foods, ensure that you store raw foods on the lower shelves with other foods above them.

  • Do not put hot foods directly into the fridge. Cover them and let them cool first.


  • Food waste and packaging rubbish must be disposed of properly as it can be a source of both bacterial and physical contamination.

  • There should be both inside and outside bins.

  • Indoor bins should have lids and be lined with a disposable bag.

  • Rubbish should be removed throughout the day to an outdoor bin with a lid.

Stock Control

  • Foods should be bought from reputable suppliers. Regular checks should be made to make sure that physical objects or chemicals are not contaminating foods.

  • Place old stock to the front of the fridge, this way it can be used first.

  • Make sure that new stock is positioned underneath old stock in freezers.

  • Rotate fresh produce by date; for example, use the ripe fruit first and leave the less ripe fruit for later.

  • Use the acronym FIFO as a guide – First In First Out.

Food delivery

  • All foods must be delivered to consumers in a way that ensures that they do not become unsafe or unfit to eat.

  • Foods that need refrigerating must be kept cool while they are being transported. This may need to be packed in an insulated box with a coolant gel or in a cool bag.

Serving Food

  • Use utensils to pick up food. use one for each kind of food.

  • Do not handle both food and money at the same time.

  • Ensure that animals are kept out of food premises (except guide dogs in shops).

  • Keep food covered.

Community and charity food provision

  • Where food will be supplied to vulnerable consumers, (i.e. the elderly, infants under 5 years, pregnant women or people with a weakened immune system) food providers must put suitable controls in place with certain foodstuffs – for example, this might include provision of information about raw or low-temperature-cooked foods. Food providers should be aware that certain foods may not be suitable for vulnerable people, such as pâtés or mould-ripened soft cheeses.