Below are frequently asked questions about food hygiene and food safety.
If your question is not answered here please contact us.
I have seen food in my local shop which is for sale past the ‘best before’ date, are they breaking the law?
It is not an offence to sell food which is past its 'best before' date as it is only the quality of the food that is likely to be affected. It is good practice not to sell food past its 'best-before' date.
It is an offence to sell or possess for sale food which is past its 'use-by' date. This is because these types of food can potentially support the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms.
The types of food which are labelled with 'use-by' dates mainly includes ready-to-eat food such as cooked meat and poultry, soft cheeses, prepared salads and dressings, sandwiches, cream products and any dishes containing egg or cheese.
I’ve seen shop assistants handling money and then food without washing their hands, is this right?
Money does not provide ideal conditions for bacterial growth so the risk of cross-contamination from money to food is reduced.
It is important that food handlers maintain good personal hygiene by frequently washing their hands and avoid excessive handling of open food, for example, by using tongs.
Is it necessary for food handlers to wear gloves or hats?
It is a not a food safety requirement to wear gloves or hats.
It is a requirement that food handlers maintain a high degree of personal hygiene, which means that they are required to frequently wash their hands.
Where gloves are worn, they should be changed on a regular basis particularly as the warm, moist conditions inside the gloves can promote the multiplication of bacteria.
Wearing of hats is dependent upon individual business food safety rules.
I have found some glass in my canned fish what should I do?
The product you have found might not be glass.
In certain canned fish products, a naturally occurring crystal can develop during the canning process. This crystal is called struvite.
A simple test will enable you to tell the difference. Place the crystals in vinegar and gently heat. It is struvite if the crystals dissolve.
If you find struvite in your canned fish you may wish to inform the manufacturer.
If the crystals do not dissolve the product may be glass and it is advisable that you contact us.
I have found some small insects in my flour, what are they?
Dried products such as sugar, biscuits and flour may contain small insects known as psocids or book-lice.
They thrive in moist, dark and warm conditions and can contaminate other foods rapidly as they breed very quickly. They are able to eat through the packaging and the food product.
If you discover that your food has been affected by psocids, throw out all contaminated food, clean the cupboards with a bleach solution and dry the cupboard out thoroughly.
It is also recommended that you store any new goods in air-tight containers and ensure good ventilation in the kitchen.
I have found an insect in my lettuce what should I do?
Salad items and vegetables, particularly lettuce may have insects attached.
This is as a result of the reduced amount of pesticides being used in their production and the fact that the products are grown outside or in the soil. Some insects can be easily washed off, but greenfly can be more difficult to remove. Although it is unpleasant to find insects in these products, it would not be considered to be a risk to public health.
It is recommended that you always wash salad items and vegetables before use to remove any insects and also any soil which might be present.
If you find insects in other food products, such as in processed foods, please contact us for advice.
What's the best way to store eggs, as shops don't refrigerate them?
Eggs, including the shell, may be contaminated with Salmonella food poisoning bacteria which can multiply to dangerous levels when stored at room temperatures or in rooms where there are fluctuations in temperatures and moisture.
It is usually recommended that eggs are stored in the refrigerator to minimise the multiplication of Salmonella. It is good practice to purchase small amounts of eggs more frequently rather than having a large number of eggs in the store for longer periods. The eggs that you purchase should have at least 7 days left before their 'best-before' date.
Eggs must always be used by the 'best before' date indicated on the container.
It is recommended that you look for eggs which have the Lion Quality mark stamped on them. This stamp can only be used on eggs which have been produced in accordance with UK and EU law. The Lion Quality eggs are also laid by hens vaccinated against Salmonella enteritidis which is the type of food poisoning usually associated with eggs - although this does not mean that they eggs will not contain Salmonella.
Can businesses store food outside of temperature control?
The law allows for food which should be served hot to be stored outside of temperature control for one period of up to 2 hours. Food which should be served cold can be stored for one period of up to 4 hours. After these periods the food should either be returned to the correct temperature or thrown away.
If a meat product is encased in pastry or similar it can be kept out of temperature for the day of baking and the day after. If it is not used by then it must be thrown away.
If you have concerns on the temperature of food being stored or served please contact us.
The Food and Safety Team is committed to protecting and respecting your privacy when you use our services. Please view our Food and Safety Team Privacy Notices for further information, printed copies are available on request.