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Who can be Described as a Food Handler?

7 June 2024

According to some reports, many food businesses are unsure who can be described as a food handler.

A Food Handler is anyone who works in any type of business that handles/stores food whether they are full-time or part-time members of staff, seasonal or occasional workers or voluntary staff members.


Who can be Described as a Food Handler – Required Competencies

All food handling employees should be competent to handle/manage food depending on:

  • their level of responsibility,
  • whether they work in a high or low-risk area, and
  • the length of time they have been working in a food handling business.


Food Handling Levels as per FSAI Guidelines – Level 1

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has developed food safety training guidelines divided into three levels. We’ll cover the Level 1 here.

The Level 1 specifies the standards expected of employees who have been working for less than three months in a food business. This level is split into two stages.

  • Stage I outlines what all employees must be able to demonstrate before they start handling food in food handling premises.
  • Stage II outlines what all employees must be able to demonstrate within 1 month of starting to work in food handling premises.

So Level 1, Stage I describes the food safety skills required of staff before they handle food in any food handling premises. Even though food handling staff have had training at this stage, they will require supervision to ensure that they are demonstrating good food safety practices.

You can compare the food safety training with getting a driving licence. The training is the same as driving licence – you need to know the rules before going to the road, or in the case of food safety training, to the kitchen. You need this foreknowledge, but once on the road, or in the kitchen, you must obey traffic signs and road laws, i.e. food safety rules for safe food handling. The training is just a permit to go on the road/to the kitchen and once there you have to follow strict rules to make sure that your environment is safe for you and for those around you.


Essential Food Safety Skills at Level 1

The following is a list of the 9 food safety skills that food handling employees should be able to demonstrate before starting to work in a food handling business:

  1. Wear and maintain uniform/protective clothing hygienically.
  2. Maintain a high standard of hand-washing.
  3. Maintain a high standard of personal hygiene.
  4. Demonstrate correct hygiene practice if suffering from ailments/ illnesses that may affect food safety.
  5. Avoid unhygienic practices in a food operation.
  6. Demonstrate safe food handling practice.
  7. Maintain staff facilities in a hygienic condition.
  8. Obey food safety signs.
  9. Keep work area clean.

Having been trained to Stage 1 before starting work, Stage II provides information on what your employees need to know after they have been working in food handling premises for a month.


Additional Food Safety Skills at Level 1

The following is a list of the 11 food safety skills to be demonstrated by food handling employees at this stage:

  1. Demonstrate legal responsibility in ensuring safe food for the consumer.
  2. Recognise how food can be made unsafe by biological, chemical, physical or food allergen hazards.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of cross-contamination and the hygiene practice necessary to prevent it.
  4. Explain the difference between high and low-risk activities.
  5. Avoid unnecessary handling of food, food utensils and surfaces.
  6. Record the temperature of food as required.
  7. Keep appropriate food safety records.
  8. Keep pests out of the food operation and operate a satisfactory waste disposal system.
  9. Take action when aware of unhygienic practices that may put the safety of food at risk.
  10. Co-operate with authorised enforcement officers.
  11. Check deliveries appropriately.

Remember! There is a legal requirement – Regulation (EC) 852/2004 that all food handlers undertake food safety training commensurate to their duties.


Online Food Safety Training

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


eLearn Online Health and Safety Training