Food safety is a given, when a consumer purchases food they expect it to be safe and fit to eat. The responsibility for ensuring food is safe to eat rests with the farmer (sometimes called the primary producer), the manufacturer or processor (if the food is prepared in a factory), the distributor and wholesaler (the people responsible for transfering the food from the manufacturer to the shop or to the door in the case of direct sales or mail order), the retailer and the consumer themselves.
At all stages it is important to follow good hygienic practices and also prevent contamination (something falling in the food or mixing with the food) or deterioration to the point where the food is no longer fit to eat. A physical item that falls into the food is often called a "foreign body" and items that could cause harm include glass, plastic, wood, metal, string, stones, and bones e.g. fish bones. Chemicals can cause contamination and it is important to control cleaning chemicals and industry or household chemicals to ensure that they do not come into contact with the food.
The moment fruit and vegetables are harvested or animals slaughtered the food will start to deteriorate, either by losing nutrients or physically changing and becoming stale. Over time the human population has used many ways to slow this process including cooking, pickling, adding sugar or salt, dehydrating or more recently the addition of chemical preservatives or the development of particular types of packaging.
Microorganisms can also be present or come into contact with food and given the right conditions will start to grow (multiply). Microorganisms are a group of small biological entities such as bacteria, moulds, yeast, fungi or viruses that can cause either food poisoning or food or water-borne disease. It is important that we prevent contamination in the first place and we take steps such as temperature control to keep foods safe that will support these organisms.
(I have written a number of scientific papers on food safety and also edited the 5th Edition of a book published by the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) on Good Manufacturing Practice. If you would like to find out more after reading this page then follow the link to "publications" in the pages section of the right hand menu on the home page).
For the IFST website follow this link: