7.2.2  Food that is not safe to eat

Although food is essential for life and good health, there are some foods that are not safe to eat.

Food must be labelled correctly. When any label, writing or other printed or graphic matter on a food container is false or misleading this is known as misbranding. Misbranding violates food safety regulations and is unlawful. Food labelling should include the following facts about the food:

  • character (type of food)
  • origin (country)
  • constituents (what is in the food)
  • amount in the container
  • date of production and expiry date (this is the date when the food is no longer safe to eat).

Food labelling is very important and a sensitive area for the food trade. The quality and safety of imported, as well as exported, food depends on honest labelling. For example, if the food item has a mislabelled (false) expiry and production date, this can be dangerous for the consumer. In this way misbranding of canned meat products and other perishable food items can cause serious foodborne diseases.

Adulteration is when the normal content of the food has been intentionally changed by adding something to it that is not essential; for example, diluting milk with water and selling it as whole milk. Adulterated food could be unsafe for a number of reasons. These include poor nutrition; watered-down milk is not as nutritious as whole milk. Unsafe ingredients may have been used, for example unclean water or other harmful ingredients might have been added.

Contamination is the undesired presence of harmful microorganisms or substances in food. Food can be contaminated by unhygienic practices in storage, handling and preparation, and may compromise food safety and palatability. (Food contamination is discussed in more detail in Study Session 8.)

The term potentially hazardous food is sometimes used to describe perishable foods because they are capable of supporting the rapid growth of microorganisms. If microorganisms are allowed to multiply, this will have the potential to cause disease if the food is eaten.

7.2  The use and function of food

7.3  Principles of safe food preparation