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What we eat is vital to our health and well-being and how we look, feel and function. It is important that people have a diet that is safe to eat and has all the nutrients they need. Food safety is essential when preparing and handling food.

Not all substances and objects that can cause harm or illness can be seen. This means that people can become ill from eating food that tastes normal and looks safe. Whether you are making someone a snack such as a sandwich or are regularly involved in preparing meals you should make sure that the food is safe to eat.

Food must be prepared and stored in ways that prevent it from becoming contaminated with things that can cause harm or illness. Food hazards could be physical, chemical, allergenic or bacterial. Let's look at these in more detail.

Physical – such as objects that can be harmful, for example, bones or bits of packaging. These could be in food when bought or introduced when preparing food. Check for these as far as is possible.

Chemical - such as pesticides, weedkillers or cleaning chemicals that could be harmful if eaten, for example, pesticides attached to fresh fruit and vegetables or cleaning products sprayed onto prepared foods. Ensure all fruit and vegetables are washed before preparation and avoid spraying cleaning products close to food.

Allergenic - such as those that may cause extreme reactions if an individual is allergic to the food, for example, nuts, shellfish, milk or gluten. They may cause an itchy skin rash, breathing problems or stomach cramps with vomiting or diarrhoea. In the worst case, the person may go into an anaphylactic shock, which is a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction to an allergy. Always ensure foods that contain allergens are kept and prepared separately from foods that do not;

And finally, Bacterial – such as pathogenic micro-organisms in food, for example, raw foods that need to be cooked to remove the pathogens, or those found in the human gut, nose and mouth that can be transferred to food during the storage, handling and preparation process. Effective food safety principles should be followed to remove these risks.

Legislation which came into force on 13 December 2014 that sets out how food businesses deal with allergen information. This legislation applies to all organisations that provide food, including care and healthcare providers covering pre-packed and non-prepacked foods. Providers are required legally required to provide a warning if foods contain 1 of the 14 allergenic substances that are covered by the legislation.