Skip to content

Personal hygiene and illness

Akuaku matawhaiaro me te maauiui

Personal hygiene is important to prevent contamination of food and food contact surfaces from inappropriate clothing and behaviour. In addition, good personal hygiene creates a positive image.

Good hygiene includes:

  • Outer protective clothing (eg aprons etc.) is only worn in the food preparation area and must be removed when going to the toilet, lunch room etc. The protective clothes must be clean every day, changed if soiled at work, and light in colour so dirt and stains are easily seen.
  • Hair should be tied back and preferably covered.
  • Food handlers must not spit, sneeze or cough over food.
  • Smoking is not permitted in the food preparation area.
  • Food handlers should avoid touching nose, mouth, hair and skin during food preparation.
  • Keep fingernails short and clean, with no false nails, nail varnish or other nail decoration.
  • Wear minimum jewellery – a plain wedding band is acceptable.
  • Food is not to be eaten in food preparation areas.
  • Hand washing

Hand washing and drying is one of the best ways to prevent harmful microbes from contaminating food either directly through touching food or indirectly by touching objects that come into contact with the food eg knives, chopping boards etc.

Wash hands thoroughly with liquid soap and warm water, scrub under the nails with soap and a clean nail brush. Dry with single-use paper towels. It is important to dry thoroughly because organisms thrive in a moist environment.

You must wash your hands:

  • When entering any area where unwrapped ready-to-eat food is handled (sandwiches)
  • Before touching raw food (meat, vegetables etc.)
  • After touching raw food, rubbish, money or chemicals
  • After coughing and sneezing
  • After using the toilet
  • After smoking
  • After taking a break, eating or drinking
  • Before putting on gloves and after removing them – gloves do not protect food from cross-contamination – treat them like your hands.

What if I’m sick or hurt?

Gastro-intestinal diseases

People who are unwell with infections can contaminate food. Harmful microbes can be transmitted from a person suffering from diarrhoea and/or vomiting and in some cases other body fluids.

  • Anyone working in a food preparation area who has vomited or had diarrhoea in the 24 hours prior to entering a food premise must report it to a supervisor
  • Any person who comes into direct contact with food or associated equipment (food handler) who has had diarrhoea two or more times, or any vomiting within a 24 hours period, must seek medical advice and have a faecal specimen tested to identify the cause of illness
  • An infected food handler must be excluded from the premises for at least 24 hours after the symptoms have ceased (if it is found to be a notifiable disease eg Salmonella, the exclusion period may increase and clearance specimens may be required)


The nose and mouth contain lots of food poisoning organisms that transfer easily to food. If you have a cold or a sore throat then stay at home:

  • Never cough or sneeze over food
  • Use disposable tissues
  • Wash your hands after blowing your nose
  • Never taste food with your fingers, use a clean spoon
  • Do not lick your fingers or blow on glassware prior to polishing

Cuts and sores

  • All cuts/sores on hands and arms need to be covered with brightly coloured, waterproof sticking plasters to prevent microbes from the wound contaminating food
  • A disposable glove is used to cover sticking plasters if they are on the hand
  • If a cut/sore is weeping or infected and cannot be totally covered the person must not handle food.