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Food safety FAQs - consumers

Read our frequently asked questions about food safety for consumers.

I am concerned about the standard of hygiene or cleanliness at a premises located in the borough, what should I do?

Contact the Food and Safety team on 020 8545 3025. We are able to discuss the nature of your complaint and are able to visit food premises to check on standards.

What can I do if I have bought some suspect food?

If you have bought food from a shop or eaten a meal out that contained something which shouldn't have been there such as plastic or hair, contact the Food and Safety team on 020 8545 3025 as soon as possible. We can advise you on storage of the complaint item.

The team has qualified staff to investigate food complaints. In most cases the action taken will be informal but occasionally it may be more appropriate to consider formal action and this may be a prosecution in the Magistrates Court or a simple caution.

We will collect evidence during our investigations, you will need to complete a witness statement and you may be required to appear in Court.

I believe I have food poisoning from eating in a place in the Borough, what should I do?

Please contact the Food and Safety team as soon as possible on 020 8545 3025 giving details of when, where and what you ate, the symptoms you have had and the onset of your illness. We ask that you visit your GP to have stool samples taken and examined so food poisoning can be confirmed. In addition, if you are aware of any other persons affected please ask them to also report to us. Please note that establishing a link to a food premises is difficult and if this is the sole allegation received we may not have sufficient information to investigate further. We will, however, keep your report on file for consideration should any further reports be received . 

What do the terms 'use by' and 'best before' on food labels mean?

Use by dates are required by law on foods which go off quickly such as cold cooked meats and poultry, sandwiches, yoghurts, cream, milk, etc. These foods are usually perishable and should always be eaten by the use by date because after that time they may become unsafe. They must be stored in the conditions that the manufacturer recommends (e.g. in a fridge) or they may start to become unsafe or deteriorate (go off) before the given date.

Best before dates are also required by law and are used for foods which can safely be kept for longer periods of time. After the date, the food may still be safe to eat but it may no longer be at its best. Some foods may be marked with a display until date. This is not a legal requirement but is an instruction for the shop to ensure the food is sold well before it is out of date.

Why is it important to keep raw and cooked foods separate?

It is important to keep raw and cooked foods separate in order to prevent cross contamination i.e. the contamination of cooked and ready-to-eat foods by bacteria from raw foods. Use separate equipment for preparing raw and ready-to-eat food and always ensure that hands are washed thoroughly after handling raw foods.

What temperature should my fridge and freezer be kept at?

You should aim to ensure food is stored in refrigerators at around 4 or 5 oC to slow the rate of microbial growth. Freezers should keep food at a temperature of -18oC or below. Cheap plastic thermometers can be used to check temperatures and may be purchased off the internet for no more than a few pounds.

What temperature should meat products be cooked to?

All poultry (including chicken and turkey), pork, minced meat products (such as sausages or burgers) and rolled joints should be cooked thoroughly throughout the product so that the centre of the food reaches a minimum of 75 oC. This is in order to ensure that pathogenic bacteria are killed. Whole joints of red meat and cuts (such as steaks) may be served rare as long as the entire outer surface of the meat is cooked thoroughly.

Updated: 26 September 2023

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