Clean, Cook, Chill

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

clean cook chill, don't get ill

Why should we "clean, cook, chill"?

Every year around 200,000 Kiwis get food poisoning. Around half of these cases occur in homes just like yours. Food poisoning is caused by harmful germs 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 3 Cs – clean, cook, chill.

Find out about the 3 Cs – Clean, cook, chill

Find out about Campylobacter, Salmonella, and other foodborne illnesses

Find out about symptoms of food poisoning

Find out about the 3 Cs – Clean, cook, chill

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

Clean (people and surfaces)

Before you prepare food and after handling raw food (like meat and fish):

  • wash hands, chopping boards, dishes, and utensils (like knives) in hot, soapy water
  • rinse, then dry them thoroughly.

Clean (food)

Protect cooked and ready-to-eat food from getting contaminated by dirty hands, dirty kitchen surfaces, or raw foods, by keeping it in clean containers until needed.

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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 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 with a dilute solution of bleach (1 teaspoon of bleach in 2 litres of water).
  • Clean as you go, and clear up spills immediately.
  • 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 bugs. 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 food (especially chicken and mince) thoroughly all the way through until the juices run clear.
  • Reheat food until it's steaming hot, to kill any germs.
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Get more cooking tips

Make sure all meat and fish is cooked right through to kill harmful bacteria. Meat and poultry juices should run clear and the 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).

Do the same thing for food that has dairy products in it.

  • Defrost frozen foods thoroughly so that they cook properly in the middle. Defrost food in your fridge overnight, or use the defrost setting on your microwave.
  • Defrost frozen foods thoroughly so that they cook properly in the middle. Or, follow cooking instructions on packages that say you can cook the food when it's 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.
  • Reheat leftovers until steaming hot (over 75°C) and do not reheat more than once.
  • Check the use-by dates on packages. Don’t buy or eat once this date has passed.


  • Cover food and put in the fridge.
  • Keep cooked and raw food separate.
  • Don't leave food out. Refrigerate food within 2 hours or bin it. If in doubt – throw it out.
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Get 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 chicken juices from dripping onto food that is ready to eat)
  • Cool hot foods for up to 30 minutes before refrigerating to prevent raising the temperature of stored food. Cool hot food in small portions to help it cool more quickly, then refrigerate in a covered container.
  • Never leave food at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Keep your fridge clean, and don't overfill it. This can prevent cold air circulating and mean some food isn't kept cool.
  • When eating outdoors keep chilled foods (like salads) in a chilly bag or bin with ice blocks 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 an ice pack if you have long travel times after shopping or won’t be going home straight away.

Get 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.

Who to contact

If you have questions about "clean, cook, chill" food safety tips, email

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