Food Safety Information

Food poisoning occurs when people eat food that has been contaminated with harmful germs (particularly bacteria and viruses) or toxins (poisonous substances). This means that if a food is contaminated with a small number of bacteria and you leave it out of the fridge overnight it could be seriously contaminated by the next day.

Since you can’t see, taste or smell bacteria, the only way that you can be sure that food is safe is to follow good hygiene at all times.

Thorough cooking is very important because it kills harmful bacteria in food. If bacteria survive in food because it isn’t cooked properly, it could make your customers ill.

What you need to do:

  • Don’t serve any food that isn’t properly cooked.
  • Once food is cooked, serve it immediately or keep it hot until serving

If you’re cooking food in advance, cool and chill it quickly – see Chilling.

How to check

  • Inspect food to make sure it’s thoroughly cooked. For example, check that it’s piping hot all the way through and that meat juices run clear
  • Check regularly that hot food is kept hot until serving


Remember, hot food must be kept above 63°C (145°F).

When you’re serving or displaying hot food, you can keep it below 63°C for a maximum of two hours. You can only do this once. Then you must throw away the food, or cool it as quickly as possible and keep it chilled until it’s used.

Cross-contamination is when bacteria spread between food, surfaces or equipment. It's most likely to happen when:

  • Raw food touches (or drips onto) other food
  • Raw food touches (or drips onto) equipment or surfaces
  • People touch raw food with their hands


So, if raw meat drips onto a cake in the fridge, bacteria will spread from the meat to the cake.

If you cut raw meat on a chopping board, bacteria will spread from the meat to the board and knife. If you then use the same board and knife (without washing them thoroughly) to chop a cucumber, the bacteria will spread from the board and knife to the cucumber.

Hands can also spread bacteria. If you touch raw food and don’t wash your hands thoroughly you can spread bacteria to other things you touch.By avoiding cross-contamination, you can stop bacteria spreading.

What you need to do:

  • Keep raw and ready-to-eat foods separate
  • Clean surfaces and equipment thoroughly before you start to prepare food and after they have been used with raw food
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw food


How to check.

  • Supervise cleaning and food handling. Check that raw and ready-to-eat foods are kept apart when they are stored, prepared and displayed. Make sure that your staff know how to avoid cross-contamination.

Some foods need to be kept chilled to keep them safe, for example food with a ‘Use by’ date, food that you have cooked and won’t serve immediately, or other ready-to-eat food such as prepared salads. If these foods are not properly chilled, bacteria can grow and make people ill.

What you need to do:

  • Put food that needs to be chilled in the fridge straight away
  • Cool cooked food as quickly as possible and then put it in the fridge
  • Keep chilled food out of the fridge for the shortest time possible during preparation
  • Don't overload the fridge


How to check:

  • Check chilled food on delivery to make sure it’s cold
  • Check that food that needs to be chilled is put in the fridge as soon as it arrives
  • Check regularly that your fridge and display units are cold enough
  • Check the time between cooking food and chilling it


Keep it cool

  • This shouldn’t be longer than one to two hours.

Remember, chilled food must be kept below 8°C. When you’re serving or displaying chilled food you can keep it above 8°C for a maximum of four hours. You can only do this once. Then you must throw away the food or keep it chilled until it’s used.

Owners and managers of food businesses are responsible for ensuring that their businesses comply with the law.

There are four key laws that all food businesses in Great Britain must be aware of and follow:

Similar laws apply in Northern Ireland. Some food businesses, mainly manufacturers, will also need to follow product-specific regulations. For more information, contact your local environmental health officers, who will be able to offer advice