What are the Basic Food Hygiene Rules? What You Should Know

To ensure you stay within the legal guidelines in a kitchen, you must be following certain food hygiene rules. In this article, we explain the rules you should follow, the consequences if you don’t follow food hygiene regulations, and how you can get qualified in Food Hygiene Level 2. 

What are the basic rules of food hygiene? You should follow the four Cs to ensure good food hygiene. This includes thorough and regular cleaning, cooking foods to the correct temperature to kill bacteria, chilling foods quickly and properly, and preventing cross-contamination by using colour-coded chopping boards and storing food correctly.

Read on to find out more about the rules of food hygiene, and how you can learn about food safety within a kitchen.

What are the Basic Food Hygiene Rules?

If you work in an environment where food is being prepared, cooked, or served, you must know how to safely cook, clean, chill, and prevent cross-contamination. This is sometimes known as the four Cs of food hygiene. We explore the four Cs in more detail below:

The Four Cs


A clean environment and strict cleaning processes ensure bacteria isn’t spread around the kitchen and doesn’t contaminate food, which could potentially be harmful if consumed. To keep an environment clean, you must be able to stick to a thorough cleaning schedule, like mopping, wiping surfaces, and scrubbing sinks multiple times a day. You must also dispose of waste properly and in a safe manner. 

Personal hygiene should be a priority when working in the kitchen. Staff must be wearing suitable and clean clothing when working with food, with their hair tied back or under a hair net. You also shouldn’t wear any jewelry, except a wedding band, when working in a kitchen. 

Effective hand washing is also important when handling food. Kitchen staff should wash their hands;

  • After cleaning (including after changing bins)
  • Before handling any food
  • After handling raw meat or fish
  • After touching a door handle, light switch, or cash register


To ensure any harmful bacteria are killed during the cooking process, you must ensure that your produce reaches the right internal temperature for the correct length of time. To ensure you are cooking food safely, follow these guidelines:

  • Don’t reheat food more than once
  • When reheating food, the internal temperature should reach at least 80°C
  • Follow instructions on the food packaging and cook for at least the specified amount of time, at the correct temperature
  • Use a temperature probe to ensure your food is cooked through
  • Cook meat to the correct temperature, until the juices run clear - refer to the table below for more information.


Meat Product

Minimum Internal Temperature

Ground Meats













Bacteria grow quickest in the ‘danger zone’, which is between 4°C and 60°C. Due to this, foods that need to be stored chilled, such as raw produce, and finished dishes, should be kept below this temperature. 

To ensure your food stays fresh and free of bacteria, you should:

  • Chill foods and refrigerate within two hours
  • Don’t leave hot food to sit out for more than two hours and keep the temperature above 63°C
  • When unpacking ingredients, ensure there is no time for products to reach room temperature / defrost before chilling or freezing them again
  • Defrost foods in a fridge and not at room temperature
  • Keep your fridge between 1°C and 5°C 
  • Keep your freezer below 18°C


Mishandling food can sometimes lead to cross-contamination, which causes bacteria to be unknowingly spread around a kitchen. Harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella, could cause illness if consumed. It is vital that raw foods, such as chicken and other meat, are kept away from ready-to-eat foods, such as finished dishes, or bread and cheese. 

To ensure you don’t unknowingly contaminate food, you should:

  • Use colour coded-chopping boards for different food products
  • Wipe down surfaces after preparing meat and fish
  • Wash your hands and other equipment in between handling different foods
  • Ensure your fridge is organised so that raw foods are on the bottom, in sealed containers to stop leakage
  • Sauces that have been used to marinade foods should not be used unless it has been cooked afterwards

Do You Legally Need a Food Hygiene Certification?

Whilst it isn’t a legal requirement to hold a food hygiene certification, all staff working in an environment where they are handling or near food must be able to demonstrate that they can safely handle food and equipment, in any way relevant to their role. Food hygiene skills must be demonstrated by kitchen porters, cooks, cleaners, kitchen managers, and front-of-house staff.

Staff could take a level 2 food hygiene qualification to learn all necessary skills and procedures, or they could receive training to a level 2 equivalent, which could be done by a supervisor or manager. 

Either route is fine to take, as long as you are able to consistently demonstrate food-handling skills when visited by an environmental health officer from the Food Standards Agency

How Long Does a Food Hygiene Certificate Last?

Some food hygiene certifications won’t expire, however, the industry recommends that you retake any certification every three years, to ensure you are kept up to date with the latest food safety regulations and best practices. We offer a Level 2 Food Hygiene course that remains valid for three years, which can be retaken and renewed easily online within a few hours.

Food Hygiene Course at HSE Docs

If you want to learn about keeping a commercial kitchen clean and following the standards set out by the Food Standards Agency, your staff must be certified in level 2 Food Hygiene or trained to a Level 2 equivalent. At HSE Docs, we offer a certified Food Hygiene Level 2 course which can be completed online. 

Not only will the course teach you the basic rules for food hygiene, but the certification is also recognised by local authorities and Environmental Health Officers, which may count towards your Food Hygiene Rating

Our level 2 food hygiene course covers these basic principles: 

  • Personal and kitchen hygiene
  • Risk assessment and control measures
  • Temperature control and its importance
  • Cross-contamination risks
  • Hazards and how to avoid them.

If you have any questions about the courses we offer or want to find out more, get in touch with our team who will be happy to help.