Food sanitation is a series of protocols which are designed to prevent the contamination of food, keeping it safe to eat. Numerous nations have specific laws in place concerning food sanitation, along with lengthy lists of recommendations from public health agencies. The practice of food sanitation is especially important to people in the food industry, at every step of the supply chain from workers in the fields to waiters at restaurants, but home cooks also need to observe the basics of food sanitation for safety.
From the moment that food is harvested to the time that it is eaten, it is vulnerable to cross-contamination with bacteria and other substances which could be harmful. The key to food sanitation is keeping food safe and clean, with all of the handlers observing personal hygiene to avoid introducing harmful elements to food, and complying with food sanitation recommendations concerning safe holding temperatures for food, safe cooking temperatures, sterilization of cutting boards and other implements, and so forth.
At home, common sense precautions like keeping foods frozen or refrigerated before use, washing foods before consumption, washing hands before handling food, cooking or reheating food thoroughly, and using separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables are often sufficient to keep people from getting sick. Certain foods may require additional precautions; people making foods with raw fishes and meats, for example, need to select their ingredients carefully at the store and handle them with special care because bacteria will not be eliminated through cooking.
In the commercial food industry which prepares packaged foods, to-go foods in locations like delis, and meals in restaurants, food sanitation can get extremely complex. A single mistake along the sanitation chain could make numerous people sick. If, for example, someone failed to wash his or her hands after using the restroom and then prepared boxed salads for customers of a deli, these customers could get sick from fecal bacteria on the leaves of the salad greens.
Outbreaks of food borne illness due to poor food sanitation are a recurrent problem in many regions of the world. Failure to process foods properly has led to sickness from peanut butter, spinach, hamburger meat, and many other basic staples, and outbreaks have also been traced to restaurants, roadside food stands, and many other locations where food is sold or traded. Even institutions like churches and community bake sales are not exempt from food sanitation issues, making it important for people to remember to use handling precautions every time they come into contact with food.