More than 100,000 illnesses that may have been caused by the presence of microorganisms, particularly bacteria, viruses or parasites, in food are reported in Germany every year. The real figure could be much higher. By complying with kitchen hygiene rules, consumers can protect themselves and other people from food-related illnesses caused by microorganisms in food. This also applies to food that is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant germs.
On this page, the BfR has compiled information material containing some simple tips on protection against foodborne infections.
Most important rules of thumb for kitchen hygiene:
Cross-contamination refers to the transfer of germs from one food to another food. This can happen through direct contact (e.g. raw meat touches other food which is not heated afterwards) or indirect contact, for example transfer from hands, work surfaces, knives or other kitchen utensils.
Kill off bacteria by heating foods thoroughly
Most bacteria in food are killed off when it is heated properly with a core temperature of 70 °C for two minutes.
Brief summary of our tips:
The following consumer tips on kitchen hygiene will protect against foodborne infections:
- To avoid cross-contamination, thoroughly clean the work surfaces and wash your hands between work steps.
- Heat food well so that it reaches at least 70 °C for 2 minutes in the centre (a meat thermometer may be useful)
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap, including between your fingers and under your nails
- Maintain a cold chain and keep food in the fridge at 2-5 °C; store meat and fish on the coldest shelf (normally the shelf above the vegetable compartment)
- Small children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should avoid raw food obtained from animals, such as uncooked minced meat products, unpasteurised cheese and dishes containing raw eggs or smoked salmon, as well as raw sprouts and frozen berries unless they are completely heated before consumption
- Wash lettuce, herbs, vegetables and fruit for raw consumption thoroughly in order to remove germs
- Keep perishable foods cool at barbeques, picnics or garden parties
- Keep dishes hot at or above 65 °C or cool them to or below 7 °C within a few hours. This prevents surviving bacteria from multiplying
- Wash or change kitchen towels, cloths and sponges every few days
- Use of a disinfectant is only advisable on the recommendation of a doctor or health authority
You can find more tips in our FAQs on kitchen hygiene or in the leaflet “Protection against Foodborne Infections in Private Households (PDF file,368.69 KB)”, which is available for download (German only).