11 Proven Ways Food Handlers Can Reduce Bacteria to Safe Levels

Food handlers and kitchen managers understand food safety and bacteria reduction are the only ways to avoid the spread of foodborne illnesses and maintain a healthy environment. 

By adhering to established practices like frequent inspections and handwashing, employees can lower the risk of foodborne bacteria contamination while complying with regulations and prioritizing consumer and employee health.

Maintaining high standards of cleanliness and hygiene is key to keeping bacteria levels as low as possible. Some of the best ways to do this include making sure all employees follow these steps:

1. Ensure Proper Handwashing Practices

Handwashing is an integral component of keeping bacteria at bay. Proper handwashing entails wetting hands with running, clean water before applying soap and lathering thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Then hands should be rinsed under running water and dried with either clean towels or an air dryer. 

Before handling food and after using the bathroom or touching raw or contaminated surfaces, food handlers must wash their hands. This effectively eliminates dirt and germ transfer from locations known to be high in bacteria to food that will be served to customers.

2. Maintain Personal Hygiene

Maintaining personal hygiene is of utmost importance when it comes to food handling. It is the only way to minimize risk of bacterial contamination. 

Food handlers must wear suitable and clean protective clothing, perform regular handwashing with soap and water for 20 seconds, refrain from touching faces and hair while handling food and avoid working when sick or when they have open wounds. These best practices help ensure safe food-handling practices.

3. Ensure Proper Food Storage Temperatures

Food storage temperatures play a key role in maintaining food safety for restaurants and in preventing bacteria growth. 

To store food effectively, perishable items should be refrigerated below 40°F (4°C) and hot items should remain above 140°F (60°C). Regular thermometer checks ensure compliance while upholding quality and safety standards.

4. Clean & Sanitize Surfaces and Utensils

To minimize bacteria contamination risks and promote food safety, it is vital that restaurants maintain a clean, sanitary environment. Surfaces and utensils should be regularly wiped clean to remove visible debris before being sanitized with approved sanitizers. 

Adherence to best practices — such as using separate cleaning cloths for each sanitizer use, following the sanitizer instructions carefully and providing sufficient contact time — is key to providing effective disinfection results that mitigate bacterial transfer risk and ensure food safety.

5. Follow Safe Food Handling Practices

Safe food handling practices require taking measures to avoid cross contamination and bacterial growth during food preparation, storage and service. 

Separate cutting boards and knives should be used for raw and cooked food items and perishable items should be stored correctly at recommended temperatures rather than being left out for long periods of time. This helps ensure bacteria is not able to develop and that if it does, it is not transferred to foods that will be served raw.

6. Cook & Reheat Food Thoroughly

Food safety relies on proper cooking and reheating of foods to eliminate harmful bacteria. 

According to food safety guidelines, maintaining and reaching the appropriate internal temperature when cooking should also help kill any potentially harmful pathogens that might develop during storage. 

It’s recommended that leftovers should be heated to at least 165°F before being refrigerated again to kill off any additional pathogens that might have formed since it was stored originally. 

7. Implement Proper Cooling Methods

Proper cooling methods in food handling involve rapidly reducing the temperature of cooked food to prevent bacterial growth. To achieve this goal, shallow pans or containers with fast heat transfer capabilities are used and placed in an ice bath or refrigerator. 

Rapid cooling helps avoid the “danger zone” temperature range (40°F to 140°F or 4°C to 60°C), where bacteria can increase quickly.

8. Monitor Food Expiration Dates

Implementing an efficient food expiration monitoring system in restaurants is essential for maintaining food safety. 

Best practices include clearly labeling and organizing perishable items and performing regular checks to identify expired products and promptly removing them from storage. This ensures that only fresh, safe meals are offered to customers and it decreases the risk of foodborne illness. Regular staff training and effective communication in the kitchen are required to achieve an efficient expiration monitoring system.

9. Train & Educate Staff Members

Training and educating staff members is vital in maintaining food safety in restaurants and minimizing bacteria levels. 

This involves providing instruction on hygiene best practices, safe food handling techniques and how to maintain an uncluttered workspace. Training sessions must be interactive, engaging and tailored specifically to job roles to highlight risks associated with bacterial contamination and the necessary preventive measures. 

Ongoing education should also be provided to keep staff updated with the latest food safety regulations and practices. Regular assessments, feedback and reinforcement of training are vital in maintaining staff adherence to best practices and creating an atmosphere of food safety within an establishment.

10. Conduct Regular Inspections & Audits

Regular inspections and audits play an essential part in maintaining food safety standards in restaurants. Inspections conducted by inspectors or auditors with extensive knowledge in food handling, storage and sanitation can quickly identify potential hazards or noncompliance issues and implement corrective measures quickly. This proactive approach reduces risks of bacterial contaminants while upholding regulations and providing safe dining experiences.

11. Receive Food Correctly

For optimal food safety, it is critical that kitchen managers source food from approved suppliers adhere to applicable regulations and have outstanding inspection track records. 

Additionally, receiving food at the proper temperature is crucial. Cold food should be at 41°F or below, hot food should be at 135°F or above and frozen food should be frozen solid upon arrival. 

Training employees to check temperatures and identify signs of thawing or refreezing helps maintain safe food practices and empowers employees to reject questionable supplies.

Let Alsco Help You Keep Up With Food Safety Standards

From making sure cleaning supplies are always topped off or towels are always clean and available to employees, Alsco can help businesses maintain the highest level of cleanliness and safety. When you have the right tools and practices in place, you’ll be better able to ensure food safety. 

Contact us today to learn how we can help you cut down on your to-do list while providing employees with everything they need to keep their work stations clean. 


“Danger Zone” (40°F-140°F). (June 2017). U.S Department of Agriculture. 

Editorial: Foodborne Pathogens: Hygiene and Safety. (August 2019). Frontiers in Microbiology.

Foodborne Pathogens. (June 2017). AIMS Microbiology.

Leftovers and Food Safety. (July 2020). Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Time/Temperature Control for Safety Food. (January 2019). Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

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