Section 5: Safety in food technology
5.1 Information for all teachers, including safety in non-specialist rooms
Teachers planning for safety in food technology should have thorough knowledge and experience in this area. If this is not the case, teachers should seek advice from a specialist. The hospitality industry website Service IQ may provide information for teachers in some areas of food technology.
Before commencing work with students, teachers need to do a risk analysis of any food production process to identify hazards and how these will be mitigated. The Ministry of Primary Industries website has useful information relating to current legislation and expectations.
In good technological practice, students should also be made aware of the importance of risk analysis. This process can become an integral part of classroom practice from an early age. Each school is required to develop, implement, and manage health and safety policies and procedures, which must be approved by the Board of Trustees. These policies and procedures are expected to be adhered to in addition to implementing the recommendations of this manual.
Any safety requirements for using equipment should be demonstrated to students before they use it independently. This includes the use of small non-electrical equipment, such as egg beaters, peelers, hand blenders, and knives, as well as electrical equipment such as microwave ovens, stoves, food processors, dehydrators, coffee machines, and deep fryers. As new equipment becomes available in schools, teachers should ensure students are trained in how to use it safely.
In general classrooms, preparing and cooking consumable food should, if possible, occur in a teaching space specifically designated for food technology. In primary schools, an area of a classroom could be set aside for food technology for the duration of the work. This environment should contain:
- hand washing facilities
- separate dishwashing facilities, such as a sink, hot and cold water, detergent, and tea towels
- non-porous workbenches or tables
- adequate lighting and ventilation
- cleaning agents, such as a broom, a mop, a brush and shovel, detergent, and disinfectant
- rubbish disposal facilities.
Never carry out food processing in an area designated for science (especially chemistry). There is a danger that toxic or harmful chemicals could contaminate food.
There are elements of a food technology unit that are non-food related, such as the design, packaging, and marketing of food. If books are placed on a food preparation surface, the surface should be sanitised before it is used for food preparation.
If consumable food products are the outcome of an activity, equipment should be designated specifically for food preparation and cooking. Kits of equipment for food technology should be well labelled, and none of this equipment should be used for other purposes. Plastics used for moulding foodstuffs, such as chocolates and jellies, must also be food safe. All equipment used for preparing and cooking food should be regularly maintained, checked for damage, and repaired or disposed of when necessary.
All electrical equipment and installations must comply with local authority and electrical safety regulations. A registered electrician must carry out all wiring and electrical maintenance except for replacing a fuse. The following defects must be investigated immediately and corrected by a registered electrician:
- machinery or equipment that gives electric shocks, however slight
- overheated switches or plugs
- sparking or spluttering from cords or plugs
- broken or frayed leads or cords
- broken switches.
Electrical regulations require that all electrical appliances including portable power tools, isolating transformers, and RCDs (Residual Current Devices) used in school workshops or specialist rooms are:
- inspected and tested before use
- inspected before being used again after repair
- inspected at intervals not exceeding 12 months
- tagged at inspection – each piece of equipment should be tagged, and all inspections should be carried out by a registered electrician or an approved power tool agent
- recorded in a school register of all electrical equipment.
Do not set up or use electrical equipment near water supplies, and do not allow students to handle electrical appliances with wet hands. Electrical appliances used in classrooms should always be plugged into an approved RCD. Ensure that appliances are assembled according to the manufacturer’s instructions, that all appropriate safety precautions are followed, and that these appliances are regularly serviced. If electrical appliances are donated to the school, they should be checked by an approved authority before they are used by students.
Food rooms generate a lot of heat and can become very warm. Extra ventilation should be considered for specialist food rooms. Additional ventilation or cooling equipment is relevant where food areas also contain computers– especially when a number of these are running at the same time.
Before students prepare consumable food products, teachers and students must check the quality of each food item by:
- ensuring that the “use by” or “best before” date has not expired
- checking for damage to food packaging, such as bulging tin cans, broken seals, or the swelling sides of plastic bottles
- observing any abnormal changes to the colour, smell, or texture of food
- ensuring that food is kept at the correct temperature until use – frozen foods are still frozen and perishable foods, such as meat, dairy products, and fish, are chilled to 4°C or below.
Food must be stored at temperatures that inhibit the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms that may cause food poisoning. Always refrigerate fresh, perishable, or high-risk foods at 4°C or below before using in food preparation and if storing them before consumption. In the refrigerator:
- cover cooked foods and store them above raw foods
- keep all cooked and raw foods apart
- remove left-over canned food from the can and place it in an airtight container before storing it in the fridge
- keep frozen foods in the freezer at -18°C.
Store non-perishable food in an area that is dry, cool, well ventilated, and free of pests such as insects and vermin. Do not store food on the floor if at all possible.
Before being used, all containers should be sterilised. Containers that no longer store their original product should be clearly re-labelled and dated for the new contents. Do not use paper containers to store consumable food products because they cannot be adequately sterilised.
Before handling food, students and teachers should observe the following hygienic practices:
- Tie long hair back from the face or wear a cap or hat, such as a disposable paper hat.
- Wash hands and scrub fingernails with warm soapy water.
- Dry hands with a disposable paper towel, a roller towel, or a hot-air hand dryer.
- Remove all jewellery from hands and arms (excluding watches).
- Cover all cuts, scratches, and open wounds with a blue plaster and/or a waterproof disposable glove.
- Wear an apron.
- Identify any allergies or medical conditions such as diabetes that students have and ensure there are alternative substances or materials available for these students. Teachers should be familiar with administering antidotes, such as using an Epipen.
During food preparation, observe the following principles of food hygiene:
- Clean work surfaces with hot water and detergent before, during, and after food preparation. If the surfaces cannot be adequately cleaned, do not place food directly on these surfaces. Instead, cover the surface with a clean, wipeable covering.
- Do not sit on surfaces used for food preparation.
- Wash hands between handling raw foods and cooked foods. Also wash them after handling rubbish, using cleaning chemicals, visiting the toilet, blowing the nose, coughing, or touching the hair, nose, or face.
- Thaw frozen foods either overnight in the fridge or by using the defrost function of a microwave.
- Observe culturally appropriate food hygiene practices.
- Use separate knives and chopping boards for raw products and for cooked products.
- Use separate chopping boards for meat and for fruit and vegetables.
- Cook meat to an internal temperature of at least 75°C.
- Reheat cooked products to an internal temperature of at least 83°C.
- Reheat food only once.
- Do not refreeze frozen foods if they have not been cooked since thawing.
- Cool cooked food quickly by placing it in shallow containers or dividing it into small portions before placing it in the fridge for storage. Cooked foods needing refrigeration must be placed in the fridge within 30 minutes of being cooked.
- Taste food with a clean spoon or appropriate utensil rather than the fingers. Do not put the spoon back in the food.
- Any food additives, for example, dyes and paints used when making coloured popcorn or other consumable food products, must be safe to eat and culturally appropriate.
Students must not share eating utensils. All equipment used in serving and eating food must be clean and manufactured from food-safe materials. Food products that are to be eaten at a later date should be transported from the food technology area in food-safe containers covered with a lid or with plastic or foil wrap.
Fish should not be bottled in schools because of the risk of food poisoning caused by contamination from Clostridium botulinum.
Appropriate cleaning procedures are important in food technology to prevent cross-contamination and the spread of food-borne illnesses.
The following are good practices to prevent cross-contamination:
- Rinse dishes before washing.
- Wash dishes in hot (55°C) soapy water (replacing water frequently and providing rubber gloves to protect hands from heat) or in a dishwasher.
- Use clean tea towels to dry dishes, washing them after each use.
- Use tea towels only for food – separate cloths should be used for wiping bench tops and floors.
- Wash stainless steel surfaces and benches with hot water and detergent and wipe them with a clean, wet cloth before use.
- Clean walls, ceilings, and shelves regularly with detergent followed by a sanitising agent.
- Mop floors regularly with hot (55°C) water and detergent or a detergent-sanitiser.
- Clean chopping boards and wooden surfaces with hot (55°C) water and strong detergent or, preferably, soak them overnight in a chlorine sanitiser or white vinegar.
- All chemicals for cleaning food preparation areas should be stored in a lockable cupboard, with an appropriate hazard warning if necessary.
- Dispose of food scraps and other rubbish carefully to prevent the spread of food-borne illness.
Regular and safe disposal of rubbish is extremely important. Guidelines to follow are to:
- Store rubbish receptacles above ground away from food storage and preparation areas and sunlight.
- Ensure rubbish bins have tight-fitting lids.
- Securely tie paper or plastic rubbish bags when full.
- Dispose of rubbish daily.
- Clean rubbish bins and the surrounding storage area daily.
- Where appropriate, designate separate rubbish containers for food scraps, plastics, glass, paper, and cardboard.
- Dispose of chemical waste regularly, seeking advice on its disposal from the manufacturer, supplier, or nearest local authority.
Non-food related activities
Dyes and paints used for purposes other than food preparation should not be in areas designated for cooking.
Food technology that involves routine scientific chemical analysis should be carried out in a separate space designed for chemical usage, such as a science laboratory.
If students are involved in technological activities that develop products for animal consumption, such as pet food treats, and wish to trial their suitability with animals, schools should have an animal ethics policy that meets the legal requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 or any other subsequent legislation.
Examples of potential equipment hazards are:
- food processors
- toasted sandwich makers
- rice cookers.
5.2 Additional safety in specialist areas
The classroom environment
If possible, the teaching space used for the preparation, cooking, and evaluation of food should be a specialist area designated specifically for food technology. In addition to the required facilities for general classrooms, this teaching space should also contain:
- laundry facilities
- cooking equipment, such as microwave ovens, stoves, and gas or electric hobs
- storage facilities for food products, chemicals, and equipment used in preparing, cooking, and evaluating food
- a first-aid kit
- fire extinguishing equipment
- a telephone for use in emergencies
- adequate seating for students
- adequate ventilation.
A registered electrician or gasfitter must install electric or gas stoves, and a certificate of compliance must be obtained from that tradesperson on completion. In the case of gas stoves, a mains gas supply switch must also be installed to turn off the gas supply to the classroom. This gas switch must be easily accessible to staff and be regularly checked.
Food presented for sensory evaluation must be held at the correct serving temperatures (chilled foods at 4°C, hot foods at 75°C, and reheated foods at 83°C). Food must be served in or on food-safe containers (preferably disposable).
Evaluation booths or compartments should be properly lit, painted a neutral colour, temperature controlled, well ventilated, free from foreign odours and materials, and constructed in such a fashion that students can be easily seen at all times by the teacher.
Where large quantities of food are produced, all members of the production team must observe practices for personal hygiene, safe food handling, and safe food selection. Correct cooking temperatures, cooling techniques, and storage temperatures must be used at each stage of the production process.
When using industrial equipment, ensure that all safety procedures for using particular pieces of equipment are observed. These include:
- using safety guards on commercial mixers, mincers, and other relevant equipment
- keeping electrical cords off the floor and away from water supplies
- wearing safety glasses and earmuffs or earplugs when appropriate.