Food safety tips

The following tips will help make sure you're following good hygiene rules at home.

Cleaning when handling food

Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water:

  • before preparing and handling food
  • before cooking
  • after touching the bin
  • after going to the toilet
  • after handling pets
  • after handling raw food

Your hands are one of the main ways germs are spread.

Make sure you regularly wash or change:

  • dish cloths
  • tea towels
  • sponges
  • oven gloves

Let them dry before you use them again. Dirty, damp cloths are the perfect place for bacteria to breed

Avoiding cross contamination when handling food

Cross contamination occurs when harmful germs are spread between food, surfaces and equipment. Help to prevent this by removing clutter that you don't need and washing worktops before and after food preparation.

Always use a chopping board. Wash the board and other utensils in hot, soapy water when you've finished using them and in between preparing raw foods such as:

  • meat
  • poultry
  • eggs
  • fish
  • raw vegetables
  • ready-to-eat food

Better still, use a separate chopping board for each type of food.

Chilling food

Make sure your fridge is set between 0°c and 5°c. Use a fridge thermometer to check the temperature. This is to prevent harmful germs from growing.

Don't overfill your fridge. This allows air to circulate and maintains the set temperature

Store raw meat and poultry at the bottom of the fridge and properly wrap or cover it to avoid raw juices contaminating other foods.

Cook food thoroughly

Cook food thoroughly until it is steaming hot in the middle, for example in pies and stews.  This will kill any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Check that meat is cooked properly in the thickest part, for example chicken legs and joints.

Check that whole cuts of pork and processed meat products such as sausages and burgers are steaming hot all the way through with no pink or red in the centre.

When checking meat products such as joints, insert a skewer into the centre to check that juices are running clear.

Understanding 'use by' and 'best before' dates on food

Use by dates on food

'Use by' dates are typically found on perishable products like dairy, meat and fish. They are based on scientific testing to determine how long these foods will stay safe. After that date, food could be unsafe to eat even if it is correctly stored and looks and smells fine.

Best before dates on food

'Best before' dates are used on foods that have a longer shelf life and tell us how long the food will be at its best. After that date it may be safe to eat, but its flavour and texture might have deteriorated.

Check your food

The exception to this rule is eggs which have a 'best before' rather than a 'use by' date. Providing the eggs are cooked thoroughly, they can be eaten a day or two after their 'best before' date but no longer than this.

Check the 'use by' dates on the food in your fridge on a regular basis and be sure to use (eat, cook or freeze) food before its 'use by' to help you avoid throwing food away unnecessarily.

Once food with a 'use-by' date has been opened, follow any storage instructions such as 'eat within two days of opening'.

Using up leftover food

Using up leftovers can be a good way of making a meal go further.

If you're going to store leftovers in the fridge, cool leftovers as quickly as possible (ideally within 90 minutes) cover them well, get them in the fridge and eat them up within 2 days.

If you're going to freeze leftovers, cool them before putting them in your freezer to minimise temperature fluctuation in the freezer. Once foods are in the freezer, they can be safely stored there forever - but the quality will deteriorate so it's best to eat them within 3 months.

Make sure you defrost leftovers properly first. Defrost them in the fridge, or in the microwave if you intend to cook them straightaway.

Eat leftovers within 24 hours of defrosting and do not refreeze. The only exception to this is if you are defrosting raw food, such as meat or poultry, once you have cooked this it can be refrozen.

Cook leftovers until steaming hot throughout.

Do not reheat leftovers more than once.

Scallop shucking guidance

A scallop shucking guide has been produced for anyone who scuba dives or free dives for scallops. The guide also includes advice on how to safely prepare and eat scallops.

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