Why Is Food Safety Important?

A person handling food | Food Safety | Franklins Training Services

Food has the nutrients our bodies need to stay nourished and energised throughout the day. But when your food is mishandled or cooked incorrectly, it can have devastating and sometimes fatal effects.

Thanks to food globalisation, we can experience the foods of different cultures worldwide, raising the risk of food safety hazards for consumers. Foodborne pathogens like Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and norovirus account for about 2.4 million cases of disease in the UK annually, making Food Safety a crucial concern.

What Is Food Safety and Why Is It Important?

Food safety describes the practices in keeping food safe from illness-causing microbes, like handling, preparing, and storing food. It’s essential for all establishments, including restaurants, food plants and residential kitchens.

You need to know how to handle food safely and hygienically to protect your family and customers from foodborne illnesses.

Here’s why food safety is important:

Prevent Cross-Contamination

When you mishandle food, cross-contamination occurs, transmitting pathogens between surfaces and leading to food poisoning. Illnesses like salmonella and norovirus will spread between consumers, causing fatal reactions.

Food safety will help you understand food safety hazards, how to prevent cross-contamination, and how to manage different allergens.

Protect Vulnerable People

Foodborne illness will severely affect adults aged 65 and older, children under five years, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems. Food safety highlights the need to closely monitor and protect these vulnerable groups from food poisoning.

Boost Business Efficiency

Employees will better avoid hazards and handle customers’ food more hygienically without mistakes. This way, customers receive good-quality food and service, making them more likely to return or refer others.

Reduce food waste

Employees trained in food safety know how to store food correctly, maintain the correct temperatures, and understand ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates. You’ll have less food going bad, reducing waste and saving your business a lot of money.

Avoid Closure, Prosecution and Fines

Companies with poor food hygiene practices risk being shut down during inspections by food safety authorities. They may also face fines, while owners and managers risk prison sentences for gross breach of food safety regulations. Food safety ensures your establishment meets all the required standards to stay in business.

5 Key Measures to Food Safety

Food safety may seem simple, but it needs commitment to avoid the burdens of food poisoning. The following five key measures will help prevent foodborne illnesses in commercial and residential kitchens:

1. Observe Cleanliness

Wash your hands with soapy water before and during cooking to avoid spreading microbes onto foods through physical touch. To kill pathogens, use hot water and detergents to clean cooking utensils and wash your dishcloths and aprons, often at high temperatures.

2. Separate Raw and Cooked Food

Raw meat on a table | Food Safety | Franklins Training Services

Bacteria, parasites,and viruses in meat, fish, and poultry may be transmitted to cooked or ready-to-eat foods through knives, chopping boards, or hands. To keep your food safe, separate raw and cooked foods and use different utensils. Don’t forget to wash your hands after handling raw foods to avoid cross-contamination.

3. Cook and Heat Food Thoroughly

Cook all foods to a temperature of 75 °C to kill most foodborne pathogens. You can use a cooking thermometer to check the temperatures and ensure they’re even throughout.

4. Store Food Correctly

Refrigerate foods like meat, milk, poultry and leftovers to slow down the growth of harmful microbes, but always store raw and cooked separately. When it comes to bread, dry foods, and unopened jars, store them on clean, dry, and cool shelves.

5. Use Clean Water and Raw Materials

Ensure your water supply is clean and disinfected, and use fresh materials in every step of your cooking process. Don’t forget to check for expiration dates on your raw materials to avoid food poisoning.

Common Foodborne Illnesses and Causes

Foodborne illnesses are infections from bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances in contaminated food. Here’s a breakdown of the food hazards and their causes:


The table below shows different types of bacteria-causing foodborne diseases, their sources, and their symptoms.

Bacteria Source Symptoms
Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Raw or undercooked ground meat products
  • Raw milk and cheeses
  • Contaminated vegetables and sprouts
  •  Abdominal cramps
  • Bloody diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Raw or undercooked chicken, beef, and pork
  • Eggs or egg products
  • Unpasteurised milk
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills
  • Headache
Vibrio cholerae (Cholera)
  • Raw or undercooked seafood like shellfish
  • Contaminated water
  • Raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Raw or undercooked poultry and meat products
  • Seafood like shellfish
  • Contaminated milk
  • Bloody diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps
  • Raw, unpasteurised milk and cheeses
  • Raw or processed vegetables and fruits
  • Meats and meat products
  • Eggs and egg products
  • Fish and other seafood
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Stiff neck
  • Loss of balance
  • Convulsions


Foodborne viruses are transmitted through faeces and other body fluids in contaminated food, fruits, vegetables, water, and raw or undercooked seafood. 

Poor hygienic practices in the production line or food contact with animal waste often result in contamination. Since these pathogenic viruses are highly resistant to low pH (acidity) and heat, they remain dormant in food and water for months.

Check out some of the common foodborne viruses: 

  • Norovirus: Causes acute gastroenteritis and has symptoms like diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches, fever, and stomach cramps.
  • Hepatitis A: Leads to liver damage and has symptoms like jaundice, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, malaise, dark-coloured urine and loss of appetite.
  • Rotavirus: Symptoms include vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, and severe watery diarrhoea.


Foodborne parasites are found in raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Their eggs and cysts incubate in infected animal and human faeces, contaminating our foods through poor hygienic practices. Here are examples of common parasites found in foods:

  • Echinococcosis spp: Tapeworms affecting the liver or lungs, causing pain, nausea, vomiting, cough, and shortness of breath. Other signs depend on their location in your body and their pressure on surrounding tissues.
  • Taenia spp: Intestinal tapeworms causing digestive problems with symptoms like weight loss, upset stomach, and loss of appetite.
  • Giardia duodenalis: Intestinal parasite marked by bloating, nausea, stomach cramps, and bouts of watery diarrhoea.
  • Entamoeba histolytica: Parasite-causing amoeba spread through human faeces and causes diarrhoea, nausea, and weight loss.


Prions are toxic proteins that trigger normal brain proteins to fold abnormally. The diseases spread to humans through infected meats and meat products containing risk material like brain tissue. The following are examples of neurodegenerative diseases from prion infections:

  • Mad cow disease: A prion disease in cattle that causes dementia, psychosis, paralysis, and coma in humans. And the worst part is that it’s incurable and invariably fatal.
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD): A fatal disorder that causes dementia, personality changes, slurred speech, blindness, paralysis, and death.


Chemical contaminants in food occur naturally or from environmental pollutants and cause severe poisoning or terminal illnesses like cancer. Here are some examples:

  • Naturally occurring toxins: Foods like corn and cereals have high levels of mycotoxins produced by mould and grain. Long-term exposure affects the immune system and normal development.
  • Heavy metals: Lead, cadmium, and mercury in foods through water and soil pollution cause neurological and kidney damage.
  • Persistent organic pollutants (POPs): Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from industrial processes and waste incineration accumulate in animal food chains, causing reproductive and development issues.
  • Other chemical hazards: Food may have radioactive nucleotides discharged into the environment from industries, food allergens, drug residues and other contaminants.

Who Is Responsible for Food Safety Standards?

The Food Standard Agency (FSA) enforces food safety laws in the UK under the legislation aiming to protect public health concerning food.

The following are examples of these legislations:

  • Food Standards Act of 1999
  • The Food Safety Order 1991 (Northern Ireland)
  • Food Safety Act 1990 (England and Wales)
  • Food Information Regulation (Northern Ireland and Wales)
  • General Food Law

Become a Food Safety Expert

Food safety training will go a long way towards protecting everyone in the food chain, whether you’re a manufacturer, distributor, or consumer. Take our food safety course today and become an expert responsible for maintaining the food safety standards in your home or establishment.

Contact Us

For any information on our courses, please fill out the form to the right or call us on the number below.

  • 01206 822 846

  • training@franklinstrainingservices.co.uk

  • Unit 9 Langham Barns Business Centre
    Langham Lane, Langham, Colchester, CO4 5ZS

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