Frequently Asked Questions


What is the law regarding selling contaminated food?

Section 8 of the Food Safety Act 1990 states that it is an offence to sell any food that does not comply with food safety requirements. This includes food that:

  • could be damaging to your health
  • is unfit for human consumption
  • is contaminated such that it would be unreasonable to expect it to be used for human consumption in that state.
Trading Standards officers and Environmental officers deal with offences where the food is not of the nature, substance and quality demanded by the purchaser.

What does the ‘use by’ date mean?

Highly perishable foods will have a use by date. This is the date that the food must be used by. It is illegal to use food beyond its use by date because it can compromise safety standards

What does the ‘best before’ date mean?

Best before dates often apply to longer shelf life foods and usually relate to the quality of the food rather than the safety. It is common practice to destroy food beyond its best before date because the food will have reduced in quality.

Can I use food past its “use by” date?

It is not an offence to do so but it would be if the food had deteriorated to such a point that it was unsafe to eat.

I want to open a new food business. What do I need?

This will depend on the type of food business and its location. You will have to register the premises used for the food business whether it is a building, market stalls or a moveable structure (delivery vehicle). This is required by law..

Registration will allow local authorities to keep an up-to-date record of all those businesses in their area so they can visit them when required. The frequency of the visits will depend on the type of business.

Do I need to register my Food business?

Yes, if you are trading for five or more days in five consecutive weeks.

Do all food handlers need to wear protective clothing like gloves and hairnets?

It is regarded as good practice to wear protective clothing while preparing food. If clothing like gloves, aprons or hairnets are not worn it may not be an offence because this depends on the specific circumstances.

What should I do if I find something in my food (a foreign object) that shouldn’t be there?

If you have found something in your food that shouldn’t be there keep all the packaging and ideally the receipt. If it is a perishable food it is best freeze the food with the object in place.

In most cases the complaint can be dealt with by returning the food to the store it was purchased in. Sometimes the complaint may need further investigation and you may have to bring the object of your complaint, food packaging and the receipt.

How do I complain about contaminated food?

Common contaminates that may make you ill include forging matter and chemicals. If you have purchased food that has been contaminated with either of these then contact your local council.

What checks can I carry out to ensure the food I sell is safe?

You should check that your food is cooked to the correct temperature. Check your fridge and freezer temperatures daily. Also, check the date marking on your foods to ensure that all foods are within their 'use by' date.

What temperature should my fridge and freezer be kept at?

Refrigerators must keep food at a temperature of 8oc or below. Freezers must keep food at -18oc or below.

How can I protect my premises and food from pests?

Ensure that your premises are properly proofed against access by pests; this will include ensuring all external gaps/holes etc. are fully covered as well as removing any potential sources of food.

Why is it important to keep raw and cooked foods separate?

To prevent cross contamination i.e. the contamination of cooked foods with bacteria from raw foods.

What provision do I need to make for refuse storage and disposal?

You must arrange for the proper periodic removal of the refuse and keep the area where the refuse is stored clean and hygienic.

Where can I get further information on food safety?

You can get further information on all matters relating to food safety from the Food Standards Agency website