Food safety advice
To avoid getting ill from the food you eat at home, or when cooking for family and friends, it is important to follow the food safety advice to stop the spread of germs. Find out more on how to store, prepare and cook food safely.
The Food Standards Agency
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Northern Ireland is an independent government food safety watchdog working to protect public health and consumers’ wider interests in food.
It is dedicated to making sure that food is safe, food is what it says it is, and food is healthier and more sustainable and offers you advice on food safety and nutrition.
Preventing the spread of germs
Bacterial cross-contamination is most likely to happen when raw food touches or drips onto ready-to-eat food, utensils or surfaces.
You can avoid it by:
- preparing food hygienically
- storing food effectively
- using shopping bags safely
Find out more at:
Keeping your kitchen clean, including worktops and chopping boards, is essential to keep food safe as bacteria can grow and spread.
For advice on cleaning your kitchen and what foods you should and should not wash, visit:
Food poisoning is caused by eating something that has been contaminated by germs. This can happen if food:
- is not cooked or reheated thoroughly
- is not stored correctly – for example, it has not been frozen or chilled
- is left out for too long
- is handled by someone who is ill or has not washed their hands
- is eaten after its 'use by' date
There are several bacteria and viruses that can cause food poisoning. These include:
If you contract food poisoning from a food business, you can report the restaurant, food shop or food ordered online to the local authority where the business is located.
The local authority's food safety team will investigate the issue and take any action needed.
Cooking food properly
Cooking food properly will help make sure that any harmful bacteria are killed. Eating food that isn't properly cooked could give you food poisoning.
Further information on cooking meat and frozen vegetables is available at:
Find out how to chill, freeze and defrost food safely at:
Barbecues and picnics
When the weather is good, many people enjoy eating outdoors. However, the warmer weather increases the risks of bacteria spreading.
Tips on how to stay food safe when cooking food at a BBQ or having a picnic are available at the links below:
Christmas food hygiene
One gift you don’t want to give to family and friends over the festive season is food poisoning. If you follow the safe preparation and cooking advice, your Christmas meal should be one to remember – for all the right reasons.
For advice on food shopping, preparing and cooking your turkey and reusing leftovers safely, visit:
Storing food safely
Depending on the type of food, you'll need to store it in the fridge, freezer or in containers you keep in cupboards or on shelves. When storing food, it's important to keep food safe so that's it still safe to eat or cook.
How long you store food for is also important so it is helpful to understand the difference between 'best before' and 'use by' dates on the food you buy.
Acrylamide is a chemical substance formed when starchy foods, such as potatoes and bread, are cooked at high temperatures (above 120°C).
Information on how to reduce acrylamide at home, including advice on cooking and storing potatoes, is available at:
Shopping and food safety
Food hygiene standards are important when buying packaged or unpackaged food in shops and supermarkets or when ordering food online.
Find out how to shop safely and your rights when buying food online at:
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme rates food hygiene standards in businesses where people eat or buy food. The rating scheme applies to cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, delis and other food shops in Northern Ireland.
By law, food businesses must display their rating sticker.
Find out how to report a food problem in a restaurant, a food shop or with food ordered online at:
Food allergy and intolerance
If you, or someone you are cooking for has a food allergy or intolerance, it is important you have the information you need to make safe choices.
The Food Standards Agency has a food alerts service so that you can make safe food choices.
You can sign up to allergy alerts to receive a free email or text message each time a recall specific to your food allergy is issued. This will include information about what to do if you have bought the product that is being recalled.