Food hygiene and safety

When working with surplus food, we always need to think about food safety – this is so that we make sure that the people we are given the food to have a safe and tasty product but also so that we help our organisation meet its legal requirements.

Tips for coaches/staff training staff/volunteers on food safety

To meet food safety standards it is important that all staff follow all the food safety rules, but staff and volunteers may not know the rules or may forget them. Here you will find materials that you can use as a supervisor to work on food safety with your employees/volunteers. You will find videos, posters & infographics, background information and inspiration for short but effective learning moments on the work floor. 

Tips for organisations on food safety

Here you can find out more about food safety regulations for food distribution organisations in the UK.


What employees really need to know about food safety

These two animation videos capture in a playful, clear and visual way what employees really need to know about food safety in the kitchen and when redistributing food surplus. 

You can use them to inform and to raise awareness at;

  • the introduction or completion of a course on food safety and HACCP
  • as a refresher to (re)introduce the importance of food safety
  • as the basis for a discussion with your team

Animation video 1. Food safety in the kitchen

Animation video 2. Food safety in food distribution

Short learning moments on food safety

Learning moments are great ways to discuss food safety concepts with your employees/volunteers in an accessible way.

These toolboxes are designed to help you lead learning moments to create more awareness among your team and to begin productive discussions. At the end of the session, every employee/volunteer will leave with new or renewed insights.  

You can use these toolboxes alongside the animations and infographics.  

Each toolbox meeting comes with a PowerPoint, flashcards and a guideline for the instructor.  

Food safety in distribution – three principles


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Guideline for the instructor

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Food safety in the kitchen  – four principles  


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Guideline for instructor

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Food safety – temperature 


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Guideline for instructor

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Interactive exercises on food safety

This is a game Web vzw, a food distribution centre in Belgium,  uses to have conversations with staff and volunteers.

You can use the template below and fill in the statements yourself with things you hear on your own work floor. You can use the statements to enter into a discussion with your staff about the subject. Why is this possible, why is this not possible? This way, employees often find the right answer(s) themselves. 

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How to strengthen your employees’ desire to learn

Here are some tips from other managers and coaches on how to help staff to learn: 

  • Listen to your staff, respond to their interests and open yourself to learn from them instead of taking a paternalistic approach 
  • Be enthusiastic yourself, use humor and a smile 
  • Create an open feedback culture and focus on giving positive feedback 
  • Create a safe environment for your staff to try and learn 
  • Show results and refer to successful experiences 
  • Use images and videos and limit the amount of text 

Frequently asked questions on food safety

During a Flavour project webinar on food safety, attendees asked questions about food safety relating to; dairy products, expiry dates, traceability, inspections, and regulations.

Here are the answers provided by the Dutch Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FAVV), the Flavour project and FoodSavers Ghent, a distribution platform in Ghent.  


Is it safe to give dairy products to children?  

Answer by FAVV: Dairy products do not pose any problems for children, unless they are allergic to them. Cow’s milk allergy is an allergy that often occurs in young children.  

With all dairy products it is important that temperatures are measured throughout the cold chain process.  Temperatures are important for dairy products that have to be kept in the fridge, such as cheese and yoghurt. 

If you have any doubts about the product or how it is kept – use your senses (smell and vision) to work out if the product is safe. If you are in any doubt, do not use it.  


How should I explain the best before date to our customers? Some people are reluctant to eat food after its best before date.  

Answer by FAVV:  It is important to be clear if we are looking at a best before date or a use by date. If something is past its use by date, then the food has to be thrown away. Do not distribute that to anybody, even to animals. You cannot use it after the date.  

For products with a ‘best before’ date – these can be distributed and eaten after the date shown. The ‘best before’ date mainly relates to the quality of the product. The manufacturer guarantees the quality of the product, in terms of smell, colour, taste, crunchiness, etc. until that date. After that date, the quality can deteriorate, but this is not harmful.  

Helping people to understand this can be difficult. One thing you could do is draw up a document to explain this and give this to your customers.  You can find examples here


But it is not only a rational fact, a matter of “knowing”. Especially for people living in poverty, it is often an emotional fact as well. The link is often made: because we live in poverty we are being given less good food and we don’t want it. 

Answer by Flavour: Distribution platforms that distribute food to people in poverty often choose not to distribute food that has passed its best before date. Precisely because people in poverty are often already dealing with exclusion in various areas, they want to avoid feeling undervalued again. The social aspect then takes precedence over the ecological one.  

One way of dealing with this is to let people themselves choose whether or not to take the food that is past its best before date. In solidarity shops, where regular prices are charged to customers who can afford them, this food past the best before date is sometimes also offered and there is less of a problem because it is offered to every customer.  


What about food that does not have a date, such as fresh food?   

Answer by Foodsavers Ghent: The best thing to do is use your senses to see if the food is okay. Consider if it smells and looks okay. Ask yourself ‘would I eat it?’. If you would, it is likely that it is okay to share the food with others. But if you would not it eat, it is best to throw it away. It is important to always be proud of the food that you give to others.  


If I freeze meat or fish on its expiry date, how long can I keep it in the freezer?   

Answer by FAVV: We recommend a maximum of two months.  


In terms of traceability; Should the lot number always be written down when opening a new pack?  

Answer by FAVV: That is not a legal obligation. Of course, it can be an added value if one does so, but it is not compulsory. 

Answer by Flavour: As far as traceability is concerned, the social organisation which redistributes food should only record where the food surpluses comes from and the date.   


What are the common problems inspectors see when they visit food distribution organisations?

Answer by FAVV: 

  • Distribution of products past their ‘best before date’
  • Storage temperatures are not adhered to 
  • Staff members do not know enough about food safety  
  • Products not labelled or labelled incorrectly  
  • Preparation of products in a different place (e.g. at employees’ homes) than where they are distributed. 

Food handling

Every food distribution and food processing centre is different. Each one varies in; size, the type of food they get, how they collect and store food and how they process food. 

In each one there will be staff and volunteers working together to help reduce food waste. 

Here you will find information on the different roles and responsibilities you might see in a food distribution or food processing centre. 

There are also tools and resources to help train staff and volunteers, including those who may have been out of work for a while. 

Staff/volunteer evaluation

Here is a template form to help with evaluating the progress of staff/volunteers in developing the skills they need to undertake the roles in a food processing or food distribution centre.

This form has been created by Panier De La Mer, a food distribution centre in France.  You can adapt the form to make it relevant to your setting 


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