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The Importance of Food Safety

The Importance of Food Safety

The importance of food safety is knowing how to avoid the spread of foodborne diseases when cooking, preparing, and storing food. People can often feel unwell complaining of sickness, diarrhoea and stomach pains. Most of us dismiss the cause as ‘something that disagreed with us’. However, this may be a food poisoning caused by eating contaminated or poisonous food.  Food poisoning affects thousands of people each year in Ireland, the seriousness of which cannot be underestimated. Good food safety is essential to make sure we are not harmed in any way from the food and drink we consume. All food handlers have a legal obligation to make sure they do not cause harm to anyone through bad practice, ignorance or neglect.


Food Safety and the Law

The importance of food safety has a significant legal weight. Serious breaches of food laws can result in significant financial penalties and prosecutions resulting in imprisonment.


Financial penalties

Food businesses who do not comply with the law can incur the additional sanction of direct financial costs, including:



As well as taking immediate enforcement action to deal efficiently and effectively with risks to public health and interests, each year a small number of prosecutions are initiated where there are significant breaches of food law. Prosecutions may also be initiated where there is intentional or reckless endangerment of public health. Taking prosecutions also supports the objective of enforcement as a deterrent to future non-compliance in food businesses in general.


Food Safety Training

A major requirement by law is that all food handlers must receive appropriate training in safe food handling relevant to their duties. This means that the type of training you need depends on the type of job you do. Legislation specifies that, even if a food operative handles only wrapped foods, they must receive training in how to handle food safely (which might include storage, serving, food allergens, inspection of deliveries, pest control, etc.). Every food operative has a responsibility to follow the food safety regulations and law to ensure a safe food product for their customer. If something goes wrong, evidence of receiving formal training may help in a defense of ‘due diligence’. This is why it is crucial to keep records of all the training staff have been given. Every employee must know the importance of food safety and how to achieve and maintain it.


Food Handlers Responsibilities

Food Handlers have a legal responsibility to:

Food handlers could be prosecuted if it can be proved they have not followed company rules and training they have been given.


Due Diligence

‘Due Diligence’ is the principal defence available to a food business if a legal action is taken against them. It means the business must prove they took every reasonable precaution to ensure the safety of food. Precautions could be:

This list is not exhaustive but ‘Due Diligence’ could be demonstrated by proven use of these systems. If the business can show the offence was the fault of another person, such as a food handler who ignored company rules, this could also be used as a defence. In such a case it is possible that the food handler could be prosecuted if it can be proven they have been negligent.


Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI)

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) was established under the Food Safety Authority of Ireland Act, 1998. This Act was enacted in July 1998 and came into effect on 1st January 1999.

The principal function of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland is to protect consumers and raise compliance through partnership, science and food law enforcement.

FSAI are a statutory, independent and science-based body, dedicated to protecting public health and consumer interests in the area of food safety and hygiene. They come under the aegis of the Minister for Health and currently have a Board of ten. They also have a 15 member Scientific Committee that assists and advises the Board. Therefore, decisions relating to food safety and hygiene take account of the latest and best scientific advice and information available.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has authorised officers who have extensive powers to enter and inspect food premises, to secure these premises for later inspection, to inspect and, if necessary, remove records. These officers may take samples of food or related materials and have these samples analysed and it is an offence for any person to obstruct an officer in carrying out this duty.

The authorised officers are the staff of the various agencies involved in food safety, including Environmental Health Officers from the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Environmental Health Officers can:

Failing to allow them access is an obstruction under the law.


Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email

Food Safety HACCP & EU

What is HACCP?

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a system meant to ensure that food products are not a risk to human health. It is a tool to assess hazards and establish control systems that focuses on prevention.

Interestingly NASA developed and used the approach for production of safe foods for manned space flights.

Procedures based on HACCP principles are mandatory for most business operators placing food or feed on the EU market. Since 1998 it has been a legal requirement for all food businesses in Ireland to have a food safety management system based on the principles of HACCP.

Importance of Food Safety HACCP training in the workplace

EU Legislation Covering Food Hygiene

EU food law places full responsibility for safe food on the food business operators. In accordance with EU law all food businesses are, therefore, obliged to implement own-check systems. This own-check system must build on the principles of HACCP.

The specific pieces of legislation which cover this are Regulation (EC) 852/2004 and Regulation (EC) 853/2004.

The following principles are covered under these hygiene rules:



Who must be trained in HACCP?


Food handlers must be supervised, and also instructed and/or trained in food hygiene based on the level of activity they are involved in.


If you are responsible for your business’s HACCP system then you must undertake adequate training in the application of HACCP principles.


You can learn how to develop and implement an effective food safety system, incorporating Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) via online learning giving certification which is recognised nationally by employers and environmental health officers.


To effectively safeguard your business today, talk to Cormac or Shane on 01 278 1938. 

Food Labelling in Ireland

Food labelling contains information provided by food businesses about their products . It covers all food that is sold to the consumer directly as well as food sold to cafés, restaurants and other catering establishments.

If you are a food provider it is vital that you are up to date with labelling regulations. Currently in Ireland more and more food is bought pre-packaged from shops and supermarkets so accurate and useful labelling on food products is now more essential then ever. Food labels have two purposes: to meet legal obligations by providing information such as the name of food, ingredients, use-by dates and storage conditions, and nutritional information on calorie content and key components such as sugar, fat and protein.

Ireland’s food labelling laws arise almost exclusively from our EU membership. The rules are complex, but based entirely on the principle that consumers have the right to know.

Why is food labelling important?

Use by and best before by dates

Guidance so consumers are informed on the safety of the food. For example the ‘Use by date’ and the ‘best before date’. Perishable foods, judged from a microbiological point of view (such as cooked meat products, prepared foods and salads), display a ‘use by’ date on the package and should not be eaten after this date, as this could present a health risk. In addition, many foods display a ‘best before’ date, which gives an indication of the “minimum durability”, or the period during which the food retains its specific properties when properly stored.

Storage and preparation

Certain products require this information for the consumer. Storage instructions are required on certain food products in combination with the expiry date to ensure proper handling by consumers. Food poisoning bacteria such as Salmonella and Listeria can grow to levels that may cause illness if food is not stored correctly. These instructions may also indicate how to store the food once the package is opened (e.g., ‘Refrigerate after opening’).

Source – eufic

Allergy warnings

Checkout out our blog on Food Allergens and Your Food Business and Do you know what “The Big 8” food allergies are? where we discuss what the big 8 are and also the 14 allergens that must be declared under Irish legislation.

Do you work with Food? Our Management of Food Allergens course is a an excellent addition to either Food Safety HACCP Level 1 or 2.

Other Mandatory Information

(a) The energy value  and
(b) The amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt

The content of the mandatory nutrition declaration may be supplemented with an indication of the amounts of one or more of the following:

(a) Monounsaturates
(b) Polyunsaturates
(c) Polyols
(d) Starch
(e) Fibre
(f) Any of the vitamins or minerals listed in point 1 of Part A of Annex XIII to FIC, and present in significant amounts as defined in point 2 of Part A of Annex XIII to FI. Source – FSAI


If you have any furhter questions or are interested in learning more about food safety, please contact us on+353 1 693 1421 and we will be happy to help you!

Food Allergens and Your Food Business

Food Allergens When Eating out

Eating out is now a large part of life that many of us enjoy to do. Alot of people eat out every day for example:

From this sample list of occasions why people eat out, there needs to be a variety of food outlets to accommodate this. There are many kinds of food outlets from five star restaurants to hot dog stands and everything in between including sandwich bars, work canteens, fast food restaurants, functional catering, market stalls, supermarket deli counters, catering in institutions like hospitals and catering by childminders and child care organisations.

Allergies on the rise in Ireland

Hypersensitivity to food is on the rise. It’s now estimated that approximately 5pc of Irish children and 3pc of adults suffer from a food allergy. Twenty years ago, just 1pc of the population was affected. The level of severe reactions, requiring a trip to A&E, has also escalated.

“Rates of anaphylaxis attendance to hospital have also gone up – they have trebled in the last 20 years,” reveals Professor Jonathan Hourihane, professor of paediatrics in UCC and principal investigator in the UCC’s Infant Research Centre. “Death due to food allergy hasn’t increased, because it’s always rare, but food allergies are definitely more common these days.”


Cater to a variety of needs

People have a variety of food preferences and tastes that many of these outlets cater too. However you will miss out on a wide selection of people and sales if you don’t cater to people with food allergens.

As business we know that is costs less to keep a customer than it is to acquire a new one. If people come to your food business with family or friends they will have no reason to come back if you don’t cater to their needs.


How to cater for Food Allergens?

How does your restaurant handle food allergens? What can you do for customers with food sensitivities? Are you prepared to deal with different situations?

Know your food allergens

If you run a food business it’s vital to know what ingredients cause these allergic relations. We have written a blog on this, Do you know what “The Big 8” food allergies are? These eight allergens account for about 90% of allergic reactions, however by law in Ireland there are 14 allergens that must be declared, the other 6 allergens are listed in the blog linked above.

Educate yourself and your staff

Educate yourself and your staff about cross contamination. Education is the first tool of defence against preventing accidental contamination. We have many courses that will cover all the essentials and more;