Clean, Cook, Chill

Following the 3Cs can help keep you safe from bacteria in food and reduce the chances of food poisoning.

clean cook chill, don't get ill


Why you should clean, cook, and chill

Every year, around 200,000 New Zealanders get food poisoning. Around half of these cases occur in homes just like yours. Food poisoning is caused by harmful germs in or on the food we eat. Campylobacter and Salmonella are the most common causes. You can help stop your family from getting sick by following the 3Cs: Clean, Cook, Chill.

Campylobacter, Salmonella, and other causes of foodborne illness

Clean, cook, chill information in other languages

清洁、烹调、冷却 (Chinese)

Horoia, Tunua, Whakamātaotia (te reo Māori)

Clean, cook, chill

The following tips will help prevent your family from getting food poisoning.


  • Wash your hands with soap and dry well before handling, cooking, and eating food.
  • Wash chopping boards and kitchen tools in hot, soapy water and dry well after using with raw meat or seafood.
  • Use different chopping boards for raw meat, seafood, and ready-to-eat foods like salads and cheese.
  • Don’t wash chicken or raw meat. Washing will spread bacteria in your kitchen and may contaminate other food.
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More cleaning tips

Good food hygiene starts with clean hands, but it’s also important to make sure your cooking area and tools are clean. An important thing to remember is to avoid spreading bacteria around the kitchen. It can easily spread from raw meat to other foods and surfaces.

  • Wash surfaces, chopping boards, and kitchen tools and utensils (like knives) with soap and hot water and rinse in clean water:
    • before you use them to handle and prepare food
    • between preparation of raw and cooked foods.
  • After cleaning, wipe kitchen surfaces with a diluted solution of bleach (1 teaspoon of bleach in 2 litres of water).
  • Clean as you go, and clear up spills immediately.
  • Don’t wash raw chicken. Washing raw chicken before cooking it can increase your risk of food poisoning from campylobacter bacteria. Splashing water from washing chicken under a tap can spread the bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing, and cooking equipment.
  • Carefully wash and dry all food storage containers before use.
  • Use different sponges or cloths for the dishes, the bench, and the floor. Keep them separate.
  • Use paper towels to clean up messy spills like raw meat juices, then wipe with a cloth and hot water and dishwashing liquid.
  • Change reusable dish cloths or sponges regularly. Clean by rinsing, then:
    • wash in hot, soapy water, then soak overnight in a shallow dish of water with 5 to 10 drops of household bleach, then dry, or
    • put through the hot wash cycle in a washing machine, then dry.
  • Use a dishwasher or hot, soapy water to wash dishes. Let dishes air dry rather than drying with a tea towel.
  • Always cover stored food – even in the fridge or cupboard. Make sure you keep food covered when handling it outside (like when barbecuing) to keep out insects and bacteria. Use containers with tight-sealing lids.
  • Keep raw meat and chicken away from ready-to-eat food, fruit, and vegetables. Store at the bottom of the fridge to prevent any juices – which can contain harmful bacteria – from dripping onto other food.


  • Cook raw chicken, sausages, and mince patties all the way through. Use a meat thermometer or check that the juices run clear and they’re not pink in the centre.
  • Defrost frozen foods thoroughly or they won’t cook properly in the middle. Defrost food in your fridge or use the defrost setting in your microwave.
  • Reheat until piping hot. Warm doesn’t kill bacteria. Hot does.
  • Don’t reheat leftovers more than once.
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More cooking tips

Make sure all meat and seafood are cooked right through to kill harmful bacteria. Chicken and sausage juices should run clear and meat should not be pink in the middle. Use a meat thermometer to check temperatures at the middle of the thickest part (where the temperature should be 75°C or more).

  • Defrost frozen foods thoroughly so they cook properly in the middle. Or, follow cooking instructions on labels or packaging that say you can cook the food directly from frozen.
  • Use one set of utensils for raw meat and chicken, and another set for cooked food. Put cooked items on a clean plate, not one that's been used for raw ingredients.
  • Check the “use-by” dates on food packaging. Don’t buy or eat once this date has passed.
  • If food is labelled with a “best-before” date, it’s all right to eat the food after the date has passed as long as the food is not showing signs that it’s gone “off”. Use your sense of smell and look for signs of decay or mould. If in doubt, chuck it out.


  • Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers within two hours.
  • Refrigerate raw meat on the bottom shelf, and keep it separate from cooked or other ready-to-eat foods.
  • If eating outdoors, use a chilly bin with ice packs to keep food cold.
  • Eat leftovers within two days.
  • When in doubt, chuck it out.
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More chilling tips

Most harmful bacteria cannot grow at low refrigeration temperatures. Set your fridge temperature between 2°C and 5°C and follow these tips.

  • Keep raw and cooked foods separate in the fridge.
  • Keep cooked food on a higher shelf than raw meat or chicken. This will prevent raw meat and chicken juices from dripping onto food that is ready-to-eat.
  • Cool hot foods for up to 30 minutes in room temperature before refrigerating to prevent raising the temperature in the fridge.
  • Cool large portions of hot food by dividing into smaller containers (this helps the food to cool faster), then cover and refrigerate.
  • Don’t leave food at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Keep your fridge clean, and don't overfill it. This can prevent cold air from circulating properly, which can affect the temperature of food inside the fridge.
  • When eating outdoors keep chilled foods (like salads) in a chilly bag or bin with ice packs until needed.
  • Keep a chilly bag or bin in your car to transport chilled or frozen foods, and transfer these to the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home. Use ice packs if you have long travel times after shopping or won’t be going home straight away.

More food safety tips

As well as the 3 Cs, we’ve got other tips to help you make sure your food is safe (it won’t make you sick) and suitable (the ingredients and condition are what you expect them to be).

Tips for preparing and storing food safely at home

Cooking food safely on a barbecue

Bacteria on food can multiply much more quickly in warm weather.

Find out how to barbecue food safely

Food safety during pregnancy

When you're pregnant your levels of immunity are lower than usual, so you're more at risk of getting diseases carried by food.

Find out how to prepare food safely during pregnancy

Food safety for people with low immunity

People with low immunity can be at higher risk of getting food poisoning. It can also be more dangerous for them. We’ve got advice on this.

Get food safety advice for people with low immunity

Symptoms of food poisoning

Common symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhoea (which can be bloody)
  • allergic reactions
  • headache
  • stomach cramps or pains
  • fever or chills
  • muscle or joint aches.

Symptoms may show up in as little as 20 minutes, or they could take several weeks.

If you or your family have any of these symptoms, contact a doctor.

Find out more about symptoms and causes of food poisoning

Who to contact

If you have questions about Clean, Cook, Chill, email

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