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This content is taken from the Queen's University Belfast's online course, Tackling Global Food Safety. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second In this section, we’ll be asking the question, what is safe food? And looking at various forms of food hazard. Safe food is a food that is free of contaminants or hazards, and will not cause illness or harm to persons consuming it. Food safety is a public health priority. Millions people fall ill every year, and many die as a result of eating unsafe food. Serious outbreaks of foodborne disease have been documented on every continent in the past decade, and in many countries rates of illness are increasing significantly.

Skip to 0 minutes and 33 seconds Food safety is therefore concerned with issues such as undesirable ingredients - otherwise known as contaminants - and food which is unsafe to eat due to the presence of hazards. Responsibility for ensuring the safety of our food supply is shared by many people from farm to fork. This is illustrated by the three pillars of food safety. Food safety encompasses actions aimed at ensuring that all food is the safest possible. To be effective, food safety policies and actions need to cover the entire food chain, from production to consumption.

Skip to 1 minute and 7 seconds The World Health Organisation lists the following as key global food safety concerns currently. The spread of microbiological hazards, including such bacteria as salmonella, or escherichia coli, chemical food contaminants, assessments of new food technology - such as genetically modified food - and establishment of strong food safety systems in most countries to ensure a safe global food chain. So what are the definitions of food safety? A hazard is anything in or on food which has the potential to cause harm to the consumer. Contamination is the presence or introduction of a hazard in or on food.

Skip to 1 minute and 49 seconds Risk is the likelihood of a hazard occurring, and controls are the actions required to prevent or reduce hazards. Other academics may refer to contaminants, but I prefer the term, hazard, simply because that is the term used in the food industry. The food processing and food service industries use a system called HACCP, which stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. It is a food safety management system which must be operated within a food company or food service establishment. As part of HACCP plan development and maintenance, food company personnel must decide which hazards are of relevance to their particular food product, and review their production process from ingredient receipt to product leaving factory.

Skip to 2 minutes and 39 seconds Identify critical points at which those hazards may enter, increase, or decrease in order to put in place control measures to prevent the production of unsafe food. In the case of unsafe food, prevention is better than cure.

What is food safety?

The safety of food may be compromised by contamination which results in human disease or even death.

In this video, we will consider the various food hazards and the impact they potentially have on humans. We will explore how research is working to combat this problem through the development of detection methods.

In the ‘see also’ section below some useful links have been added for you to browse and a link to provide you with more detail about HACCP.

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This video is from the free online course:

Tackling Global Food Safety

Queen's University Belfast