9 Color-Coding Tips to Increase Food Safety

Published on
January 9, 2023 at 9:36:00 AM PST January 9, 2023 at 9:36:00 AM PSTth, January 9, 2023 at 9:36:00 AM PST

9 Color-Coding Tips to Increase Food Safety

Color-coding is essential in any food safety program. It helps prevent cross-contamination due to pathogens, allergens and foreign contaminates, and can greatly reduce the risk of recalls. In food plants every area serves a purpose and it’s important to keep areas sanitary and organized. By having a clearly communicated color coded system for tools, clothing, PPE, bins, and markings it will not only benefit your workers but will help with your next audit. Your frontline employees are your best defense for maintaining food and workplace safety. When you establish clear procedures and practices, it not only aids with team training but also promotes a thriving food safety culture.


Some of the industries that can benefit the most from color-coding are:

  • Meat/poultry
  • Seafood
  • Dairy
  • Produce
  • Baking/snack
  • Confectionery
  • Beverage


There is currently no standard set of rules for color-coding, just best practices. Many food processors have taken the proactive step in implementing their own color-coding program. Below is a sample.


Sample Color-Coding Systems:

  • WHITE = Food Contact Surfaces
  • BLUE = Non-Food Contact Surfaces
  • RED = Sanitation
  • ORANGE = Allergen Line
  • YELLOW = Restrooms
  • GREEN = Maintenance
  • GRAY = Waste or Trash
  • BLACK = Floor Drains



We put together 9 tips to help guide you on implementing a color-coding program at your facility to improve overall food safety and maximize your control over cross contamination.

1. Make it simple

Avoid using complicated colors in the workplace. Limiting the number of colors you use will go a long way towards simplifying the process. By keeping the process simple, your employees will understand and use it.

2. Pick logical colors

Use colors opposite to the products you work with. By using contrasting colors, your employees can easily spot fragments from equipment in the food or product. Try to pick colors that make the most sense in each area.

3. Ensure your plan is color blind friendly

As selecting colors is one of the most important things you do in drafting a color-coding plan, pay special attention to the colors themselves. Try to avoid the most commonly confused color pairings in your plan. Color-blindness affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women- something you want to take into consideration.

4. Make it clear

Use signs and shadow boards for organization. Having signage with imagery or multilingual text clearly communicates to your employees how to use the color-coded system correctly.

5. Communicate

Train staff on how to use color coded items. Workers should know what colors they’ll be expected to use, along with how to store and take care of their tools. In addition to this, employees should be taught why color-coding can help increase food safety and make their jobs easier.

6. Color Match your Tools and Storage Areas

Make sure your tools are stored in an area where they are used and use color-coded storage like Shadow Boards or wall brackets. Tools stored in the same area where they are used avoids confusion, cross-contamination and equipment loss.

7. Marks Zones and Critical Control Points

A color zone visually confirms that equipment is in the appropriate critical zone in a food processing facility. For instance, a color zone may be assigned to an area where raw meat exists in a facility, since raw meat poses increased risks of bacterial contamination.

8. Follow through

Make sure all departments, purchasing, quality manager, and employees use the same documentation so everyone is on the same page. Keep an open dialogue and encourage employees to come with suggestions to improve the system.

9. Maintenance Plan

Regularly review and monitor your color-coding program and equipment to reduce the risk of foreign object contamination. Inspect your food handling tools and cleaning equipment to ensure you’re minimizing cross contamination.


Auditors look favorably upon the practice of color-coding, because it is a method that can easily be followed by employees. Segregating zones by colors offers a quick visual that equipment is where it belongs and is not contributing to the unintentional spread of contaminants throughout the facility. Every manufacturer needs to be proactive in maintaining food safety.

Preventing recalls before they happen protects the consumer and the reputation of your brand.

We provide a large color range for our food handling tools, cleaning equipment and storage solutions. If you need assistance in developing your own color-coded system, contact us. Your new color-coded system will ensure you are better preparetiod and improve your food safety standards.