In the competitive world of Australian food service, ensuring customer safety is vital. One often overlooked yet crucial element of achieving this is a well-implemented colour coding system in your kitchen.

A Simple Defence Against Costly Consequences

Food borne illness outbreaks can be tragic for any food business. Not only do they put your customers at risk, but they can also lead to hefty fines, closures, and a damaged reputation. Colour coding offers a simple and effective way to minimise the risk of cross-contamination, a major contributor to food borne illness.

HACCP's Invaluable Ally: Colour Coding in Action

HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is the basis of food safety in Australia. It's a science-based system that identifies potential hazards throughout the food preparation process, from receiving ingredients to cooking and serving. The goal is to establish control points where these hazards can be prevented, eliminated, or reduced to safe levels.

Hazard Identification: Colour coding helps identify potential cross-contamination hazards by visually differentiating between raw and cooked products, allergens, and different food types.

Critical Control Point (CCP) Management: Specific colour-coded equipment can be designated for CCPs, such as cooking temperatures for meat. Using colour-coded thermometers for cooked meats ensures they reach the safe internal temperature required to eliminate harmful bacteria.

Monitoring Procedures: Colour coding simplifies monitoring by providing a clear visual cue for staff. A quick glance at the colour of a chopping board or utensil readily identifies its designated use, allowing staff to verify they're using the correct equipment.

Corrective Actions & Record Keeping: If a staff member accidentally uses a red (raw meat) chopping board for vegetables (green), the colour coding system makes it easy to identify the error and take corrective actions like proper sanitation. Colour coding also simplifies record-keeping by providing a visual reference for documenting adherence to HACCP protocols.

By aligning with HACCP principles, colour coding becomes more than just a colour system; it becomes an integral part of your food safety program, ensuring consistent and verifiable safe food handling practices.

HACCP Australia suggests the below colour codes, even though a formal standard isn't in place. They're widely adopted in Australian kitchens.

Decoding the Rainbow: A Colour for Every Food Source

The beauty of colour coding lies in its simplicity. By assigning specific colours to different food types, staff can easily identify the appropriate utensils and chopping boards to use:

Red: Raw Meat - Raw meat is a prime breeding ground for harmful bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella. Red utensils and chopping boards ensure these ingredients are kept strictly separate.

Blue: Raw Fish and Seafood - Separate, blue-coded equipment keeps these oceanic ingredients from cross-contaminating other proteins.

Yellow: Raw Poultry - Raw poultry can harbour harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter that can contaminate other foods if they come in contact.

Green: Fruits and Vegetables - Fresh and vibrant green keeps leafy greens and vegetables safe from any lingering bacteria.

Brown: Cooked Meat - Once meat is cooked through to a safe internal temperature, it graduates to brown chopping boards and utensils. This signifies its safe status and prevents it from being re-contaminated by raw meat juices.

White: Dairy and Bakery (Excluding Eggs) - White utensils and boards keep dairy products and baked goods (excluding eggs, which go with raw meat) free from contamination.

Purple: Allergy - Allergies can react to tiny amounts, and even seemingly safe ingredients can harbour hidden allergens.

Pink: Vegan - While vegan food itself isn't a source of bacterial contamination, it could encounter allergens

Black: Bar - Keeping your drinks garnishes away from bacteria. 

Colour Coding Beyond Utensils and Chopping Boards

While utensils and chopping boards are the most common colour-coded equipment, the system can be extended to other areas of your kitchen: 

Storage Containers: Implement colour-coded storage containers for different ingredients, following the same colour scheme as utensils.

Cleaning Cloths: Use colour-coded cloths and sponges for different cleaning tasks, e.g. red for raw meat surfaces, green for produce areas. This helps prevent cross-contamination during sanitation.

Bins: Colour-coded bins can be used for different waste streams, promoting proper waste segregation and hygiene.

Beyond the Colours: Building a Culture of Food Safety

Colour coding is a powerful tool, but it's just one piece of the puzzle. Regular staff training on proper hygiene procedures, cleaning protocols, and the importance of adhering to the colour coding system are all essential.
By embracing a vibrant colour coding system, you're not just adding a splash of colour to your kitchen; you're taking a proactive step towards ensuring the safety of your customers, your staff, and your business.