Safe use of foodstuffs

A balanced, varied and moderate diet is the best way to avoid the effects of any harmful substances contained in food. Good hygiene in the kitchen and in handling foodstuffs as well as correct cooking and storage temperatures help reduce the risk of food poisoning. The instructions for use provided on the labelling of the food product should also be observed.

General instructions on safe use of foodstuffs (pdf)

The foodstuffs known at present to involve potential risks are listed in this Table.

Drawing up instructions for safe use

Finnish food is generally pure and safe. Nevertheless, food can involve risks and hazards including microbes (such as listeria), microorganisms, pesticides and environmental pollution (such as heavy metals). Some foods are naturally rich in nitrate and sometimes harmful substances such as PAH substances (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) can occur in cooking. Because of potential health risks, restrictions are imposed on the use of some foods or additional instructions are issued on how to handle these foods. These are outlined in the Instructions for the Safe Use of Foodstuffs.

The instructions on the storage and use of foodstuffs shown on labelling must be complied with. Under food legislation, labelling carries warnings about certain ingredients, for example, that caffeine is not suitable for children, pregnant women and persons sensitive to caffeine.

Recommendations on the use of food are made on the basis of scientific evidence (such as advice on the use of certain fish, liver and sausage) as well as recommendations made on the so-called precautionary principle (such as avoiding giving herbal drinks to children and ginger preparations to women during pregnancy).

The precautionary principle means that there is a justified suspicion that the product in question could have a harmful effect but that using current methods the risk cannot be determined with sufficient certainty.

Recommendations take into account both the health benefits and the potential risks associated with the food. Assessment is carried out on the basis of foodstuff use, the foodstuff user group, the occurrence of any risk and its harmfulness. Recommendations can change as research evidence increases.

In the food industry, producers, manufacturers and retailers are primarily responsible for food safety. The municipal food control authority is responsible for overseeing compliance with the requirements of foodstuff legislation on the basis of risk assessments, with spot checks and control projects. Food safety is also closely monitored internationally.