A Guide to Food Preparation Colour Codes
Preventing food contamination
Colour-coding kitchen equipment is essential for professional caterers. Preparing fresh salad ingredients and raw meat on the same chopping boards, for example, can contaminate food, potentially causing food poisoning and other illnesses as a result.
What's more, customers with food intolerances, allergies and dietary requirements may need their food to be prepared separately to other diners', and using a colour coding system for kitchen equipment such as utensils and chopping boards can help to prevent mix-ups.
Safe food handling is essential for anyone who works in food preparation, and colour-coding kitchen equipment is a relatively cheap way to implement a safe system that's easy for all to follow.
Colour-coding equipment is also one way to demonstrate to Food Standards Enforcement Officers that a business is taking steps to eliminate health risks. During an inspection, this will show them that a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system is in place to help avoid contamination.
Colour-coding kitchen equipment: A guide
There are many items of kitchen equipment that can be colour-coded to prevent bacteria from spreading, such as chopping boards, utensils, thermometers and storage containers, but also aprons, cloths and gloves used in food handling.
Different colours should be used to code certain pieces of kitchen equipment: for example, green, red and brown chopping boards should be used for preparing different types of food.
A guide to food preparation colour codes
There is a standardised system for colour-coding kitchen equipment across the foodservice industry, as explained below:
- White - White is best used for bakery items, such as pastries, as well as any dairy products. It is important to note that eggs should be prepared separately to avoid the risk of salmonella bacteria spreading.
- Yellow - Yellow is the best colour to use for any cooked meats. Cooked meat and raw meat should always be kept separate, and cooked meats should always be stored above raw meat in a fridge.
- Green - Green equipment should be used for fruit and salad.
- Brown - Brown equipment should be used when you are preparing vegetables.
- Red - Red should be used for raw meat items, such as uncooked steaks. It is essential that any surfaces are cleaned thoroughly after preparing raw meat items.
- Blue - Blue is used for raw fish. It is vital that raw fish is kept away from raw meat, as fish is a common allergen.
In busy kitchens, a colour coding system can be easy to forget, so it's a good idea to display a wall chart for employees to quickly refer to at any time. Signs reminding staff of the importance of meticulous cleaning to avoid cross-contamination of foods would also be useful.