Food safety and hygiene

Millions of people in the UK suffer every year due to poisoning and illnesses caused by consuming contaminated (or, more rarely, toxic) food or water.

The vast majority of cases result from eating food prepared, cooked and/or packaged outside the home in a commercial environment like a convenience store, restaurant, café, takeaway or fast food outlet.

Symptoms of bacterial poisoning might include diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and a mild fever while signs of an allergic reaction can range from tingling or itching to swelling and breathing and swallowing difficulties.

Establish a food safety management system.

A formal system for food safety, ideally based on the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles, must be in place.

This system should focus on identifying the "critical points" in a process where food safety problems or hazards could arise so that measures can be put in place to prevent things going wrong.

Other food safety practices should be merged into the system, such as the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and the "four Cs" approach developed by the Foods Standards Agency (FSA); the "four Cs" being:

The seven principles of HACCP:


  • Conduct a hazard analysis
  • Identify the critical control points (CCPs) (steps at which control is essential)
  • Establish critical limits for CCPs
  • Monitor the CCPs
  • Take corrective actions if a CCP is not under control
  • Verify the above are working effectively
  • Keep records to demonstrate food is being produced safely.
Make sure food handlers are appropriately trained.

All food handlers must be suitably instructed and/or trained in food hygiene so that they’re able to handle food safely. Additionally, those responsible for the HACCP-based procedures must have enough relevant knowledge and understanding to ensure the procedures are operated effectively.

There is no legal requirement to attend a formal training course or get a qualification as, instead, the necessary skills may be obtained in other ways, such as on-the-job training, self-study or relevant prior experience - the owner of the food business is responsible for ensuring this happens.

Appropriate nationally recognised accredited courses that can be used to gain a qualification in food safety include those accredited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).

It should be noted that the length of courses may vary between providers and assistance is usually available where candidates don’t have English as their first language.

CIEH food safety certificate levels:


  • Level 1: Half-day course for employees handling low-risk or wrapped food.
  • Level 2: One day course for employees in a catering, manufacturing or retail setting where food is prepared, cooked and handled.
  • Level 3: Three day course for managers, supervisors and senior hygiene personnel who develop or monitor HACCP-based procedures.
  • Level 4: Five day course for business owners, managers, supervisors and senior hygiene personnel who are responsible for compliance with relevant legislation.
Provide allergen information to consumers.

To protect those that suffer from food allergies, allergen information has to be provided wherever food is provided in a commercial environment, regardless of whether it’s pre-packed, non-packed, on a plate, in a takeaway carton, cooked or uncooked.

Details of specified allergens have to be listed clearly in an obvious place; If it’s not provided upfront (i.e. on packaging, a menu or via on-shelf labelling), then customers will need to be signposted to where it can be found (e.g. serving staff or a website).

All food producers have to ensure that the ingredients label agrees with what actually goes into the food by regularly assessing the allergen status of ingredients from suppliers and avoiding contamination in food assembly.

If it can’t be guaranteed that a food product hasn’t been accidentally contaminated during the food production process, labels with phrases like "may contain" or "not suitable for those with ‘x’ allergy" can be used to warn consumers.

Food Information Regulations (FIR) 2014

For compliance with FIR, the following 14 allergens must be appropriately declared:

  • celery; 
  • cereals containing gluten; 
  • crustaceans; 
  • eggs; 
  • fish; 
  • lupins; 
  • milk; 
  • molluscs; 
  • mustard; 
  • peanuts; 
  • sesame seeds; 
  • soybeans; 
  • sulphur dioxide & sulphites (when more than 10 ppm), and
  •  tree nuts.
For more guidance, see our applicable legislation page:
About Food Information Regulations

Extra notes:

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Either as part of ensuring food safety and hygiene or to control other risks in associated environments, these topic pages provide additional helpful information:
Find out more about food safety standards, management systems and training programmes via these websites: