Every commercial kitchen serves different food types and handles raw and cooked food throughout each shift. One of the first topics catering students are taught is food safety and colour coding is a way of ensuring food hygiene and safety in an industrial kitchen. It’s common knowledge that bacteria, contaminants and pathogens are dangerous in a restaurant kitchen and the last thing you want to do is cause sickness among your customers.

Raw meat, poultry and fish carry bacteria and if not treated properly, these bacteria can cause sickness. While cooking fresh meat and fish properly removes bacteria, the problem lays in the food preparation areas where there could be risk of cross-contamination if not organised properly. Using the right utensils is one of the things that can be done to reduce risk. Equally, if these areas aren’t meticulously cleaned and sanitised with suitable anti-bacterial products the bacteria will grow and cause a risk across the kitchen and into the restaurant. Food safety regulations insist that all restaurants, hotel restaurants and similar commercial kitchens have good systems in place to prevent this happening. It’s not just about health and safety although this priority, you wouldn’t want to affect the flavour of food you are preparing by allowing left-over juices to be absorbed by another food type.

To help you keep a clean and healthy environment, you should use a colour coding system and on the Alliance website, you’ll find a variety of colour coded items especially designed for food safety in your kitchen.

Here’s a guide as to what colour should be used for what food preparation:

  • White – This colour is best used for bakery items, pastry and dairy. Prepare bread, pastries and cheese on white boards and use white handled knives. Don’t use the same boards or utensils for eggs which should be kept separately as they contain salmonella bacteria.
  • Yellow – Yellow boards and yellow handled knives should only be used for cooked meats. Cooked meat must always be kept separately from raw meat as once it’s cooked, the bacteria will have been removed so you don’t want to run the risk of contaminating it.
  • Red – This colour is especially for raw meat. Purchase red chopping boards and red handled knives. Be extremely vigilant when preparing raw meat and keep it away from other areas of food preparation so there’s no risk of contamination. Areas where raw meat has been prepared must be cleaned and sanitised immediately after use.
  • Blue – You should use blue handled knives and chopping boards for raw fish and always keep raw fish away from raw meat because fish is a common allergen. If you are frying fish, make sure the deep fat fryer you use isn’t used for anything else. It’s a good idea to have a second deep fat fryer for other fried food such as chicken or chips/French fries.
  • Green – Use green boards and knives with green handles for fruit and salad.
  • Brown – Have brown chopping boards and knives available for all your vegetable preparation.

As well as a colour coding system, make sure your food processors, mixers and slicers are maintained and clean them out regularly because these pieces of equipment also harbour bacteria as they handle raw food. Add colour coded labels to your kitchen too and use these for your refrigerated food stores, labelling them by day so your staff know what should be used first according to the colour label.

Putting a clear colour-coding system in place will help you maintain a high standard of food safety. Arm your staff with a list of all the food colour codes so everyone understands it and keep it simple so there’s no confusion. The Alliance website has a number of colour coded utensils available, from knives and boards to food safety labels and more.