It is an offence to sell or process food in a way which could be harmful to health and understanding food safety helps everyone work to a hygienic standard. It's also important to follow good practice at home to make sure food is safe to eat.
For businesses there is lots of guidance on what they must do, and we carry out inspections to make sure they are meeting the standards.
Food allergens and allergy labelling
Food businesses must know what is in the food they are preparing and selling, and be able to advise their customers. Food must be labelled to show whether it contains:
- cereals containing gluten
- sesame seeds
- sulphur dioxide.
More information on allergens and food labelling is available on the Food Standards website. You can find advice on dealing with food allergies on the NHS website.
Use by and sell by dates
The use by date displayed on food labelling shows the date after which it may not be safe to eat that food. You should not eat, cook, or freeze it after the date displayed, even if it looks or smells fine.
The best before date is an indication of quality rather than safety. Food that is past its bet before date will likely have deteriorated in quality and become unpleasant to eat, but is generally not going to cause harm.
Sell by and display until dates are for the retailer and not the customer. You don’t need to worry about them and they are not important for you to look out for. They do not determine the date past which it is safe to eat the food.
Food safety at home
Storage of food
- Never leave perishable foods un-refrigerated for prolonged periods
- always check the label on packaging, if food needs to be refrigerated keep it in the fridge
- make sure your fridge is operating correctly. Foods should ideally be kept between 1°C and 5°C
- cooked leftovers should be cooled quickly and stored in the fridge
- keep raw meat, poultry and eggs separate from other food items
- store raw meat and poultry at the bottom of the fridge so they can't drip onto other foods (protect items in salad trays below).
Food poisoning from cooked foods often occurs as a result of cross-contamination from raw foods.
- Prepare raw and cooked food separately
- always wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw food, especially raw meat, poultry and eggs
- use different chopping boards/work surfaces for raw food and ready-to-eat food
- clean knifes and other utensils thoroughly after use with raw food
- keep dishcloths clean and change tea towels and hand towels frequently
- if you have any cuts or grazes on exposed areas, keep these covered with a waterproof dressing
- make sure frozen meat and poultry are fully thawed before cooking
- ensure the centre is well cooked. Meat should be cooked until the juices run clear. No pink meat should be visible in poultry, meat burgers, sausages and mincemeat
- do not reheat cooked food more than once
- do not use raw eggs in uncooked foods such as homemade mayonnaise, tiramisu, mousse
- use pasteurised egg or commercially available mayonnaise.
- Make sure frozen meat and poultry are fully thawed before cooking
- ensure the centre is well cooked.
- meat should be cooked until the juices run clear.
- no pink meat should be visible in poultry, meat burgers, sausages and mincemeat.
It is important to take extra care when having a BBQ to make sure food is safe to eat.