Safe Food Handling

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Purpose of this policy

To ensure school food premises are operated safely and food is handled appropriately.


School canteens are Class 2 food premises and must demonstrate that food is safe to eat in accordance with the Victorian Food Act 1984

School councils must ensure that school canteens meet these legislative requirements by:

  • having a food safety supervisor with the training, skills and knowledge to ensure that:
    • all regulations are followed
    • anyone handling food has the correct training
  • ensuring a food safety program is prepared based on the Department of Human Services template
  • lodging the food safety program with the municipal council at the time of registration and re-registration.

Food Safety Program template

The Department of Human Services’ Food Safety Program template can either be purchased from:

  • the Information Victoria Bookshop, 505 Little Collins Street, Melbourne 3000, telephone 1300 366 356 or
  • via the Internet at FoodSmart (see: Other resources below).

Food safety and handling practices

This information summarises recommended practices that will assist schools in complying with food safety and food handling regulations.

Personal hygiene

Good personal hygiene is essential to ensure that:

  • food is not contaminated with food-poisoning bacteria or other matter such as foreign objects or chemicals
  • hands and other parts of the body do not transfer food-poisoning bacteria to food.

Personal hygiene practices include:

  • hand washing - always wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water
    • before handling food and after visiting the toilet
    • coughing or sneezing
    • handling garbage
    • touching hair or other body parts or any other activity that may carry bacteria to food
  • personal cleanliness - when handling food:
    • tie long hair back or cover it with a cap or other approved headwear
    • wear limited jewellery
    • wear clean protective clothing over normal clothing
    • store personal items and spare clothes away from any areas involving food handling
  • personal behaviour - do not smoke, chew gum or undertake any other unhygienic practice in food handling areas
  • illness and injuries - all wounds or cuts on hands or arms are to be completely covered with brightly coloured wound strip or bandage. If the wound is on the hands, disposable gloves must be worn over the top of the wound strip. Both the wound strip and gloves must be changed at least hourly or sooner if there is a change in tasks. Individuals suffering from diseases that can be transmitted through food must not handle food.

Food preparation

Food naturally contains bacteria and some food may contain food poisoning bacteria. Foods need to be handled correctly to ensure that they do not become contaminated and that the bacteria already in the food do not have an opportunity to grow.

It is important to keep raw food totally separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

If raw food is cooked thoroughly most of these bacteria will be killed. However, if raw food comes into contact with other food that has already been cooked, or is ready-to-eat, the bacteria can transfer to this food. This is called cross-contamination.  

This table outlines key food preparation and storage considerations.


receiving food

  • Perishable foods supplied must be transported in a refrigerated food vehicle or refrigerated containers. The temperature of deliveries should be checked.  Food that needs refrigeration must be transported at below 5°.
  • Dry goods being delivered need to be checked for unbroken packaging such as bread and cans.

preparing food

  • Use separate utensils, chopping boards and other equipment for raw and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination. If this is not possible, thoroughly wash and sanitise equipment between use.
  • Thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables before use.
  • Don't use any food if you cannot guarantee its freshness.

handling food

  • Raw foods, which are to be cooked, can be safely handled with bare hands (provided hands are clean).
  • Cooked or ready-to-eat foods should be handled with utensils such as tongs, spoons, spatulas or disposable gloves.

Important: If gloves are worn, they must be changed at least hourly or sooner if they become torn or if there is a change in task e.g. when changing from raw to ready-to-eat food. Always wash hands before putting on gloves. Never touch food with gloves that have been used for cleaning.

cooking and heating food

  • Thaw food in the bottom part of the refrigerator before cooking.
  • Microwave ovens can be used to thaw food provided that the food is cooked immediately afterwards.
  • Never refreeze food that has been thawed.
  • All food is thoroughly cooked, especially those of animal origin and ensure the juices run clear.
  • If food can be cooked from a frozen state extra care must be taken to ensure the food is cooked right through.
  • If reheating food ensure that it is brought to the boil and simmered for at least five minutes.

storage and display

If food is not stored, displayed or transported correctly the naturally forming bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels. One of the most important factors for growth is temperature with the known danger zone being between 5° and 60°.  High risk foods such as meat, dairy products and seafood must spend only the minimum possible time in this zone.

These same foods produced in the form of dried food powders in their original packaging, jars, cans and other containers of which have been processed by heat are not categorised as high risk foods.

Safety can be maintained by correctly storing food:

  • controlling the temperature of high risk foods
    Important: keep cold food cold (below 5°). Keep hot food hot (above 60°).
  • checking equipment, particularly the operating temperatures of refrigerators and freezers including:
    - buying a thermometer and monitor temperatures
    - immediately reporting malfunctioning equipment to the principal (or campsite owner if at a camp)
    - keeping frozen food frozen
    - defrosting freezers regularly and not overloading them.
    - covering food with lids, foil or plastic film
    - once a can is opened any remaining food should be transferred to a suitable container and labelled with the date.  Do not store in the can
    - ensuring food does not remain in storage too long
    - storing chemicals, cleaning equipment and personal belongings away from food preparation and food storage areas
  • food that is displayed must either be wrapped or covered
  • bain-maries (or hot holding devices) are to keep hot foods (above 60°) and are not to be used to:
    - reheat foods; or
    - stack food above the level of the trays or else it will not remain sufficiently hot.

Setting up food premises

Permanent food premises need to be registered with the municipal council and built and designed so that the food can be prepared safely and efficiently. Your local council environmental health officer can be contacted for details on building requirements for permanent food-handling premises and facilities.

Temporary food premises such as food stalls for a fete, barbecues, sausage sizzles need to:

  • be constructed so that they can prevent the contamination of food, particularly by dust, insects and customers
  • ensure all benches and tables have surfaces that are smooth and able to be cleaned
  • have facilities for hand washing and utensil washing facilities. If a sink connected to a water supply is not available near the stall, temporary facilities will need to be provided. Utensil washing facilities must be made available, including sealed container or drum with clean water; water-heating device such as an urn, so that hot water is available; bucket to collect dirty water; detergent; and disposable paper towels. Utensils should be washed as soon as possible in clean, soapy water and rinsed in clean water. All waste water must be disposed to the sewer, not storm-water.
  • have adequate refrigeration and rubbish receptacle.

Note: Contact the local council environmental health officer to discuss any additional requirements such as completion of an application for stalls held off campus.

Related policies

Related legislation

  • Victorian Food Act 1984 amended in 1997 and 2001

Other resources

For more information see: