Food safety and shopping


As a consumer, you have a right to buy properly stored food from the shop and supermarket. You should check that food is properly packaged before you buy it and check that it has a clear use-by or best before date.

When grocery shopping, avoid:

  • Chilled food that is left out of the fridge or frozen food left out of the freezer
  • Cracked eggs
  • Leaking cartons or containers
  • Swollen food packages (especially dairy, meat and poultry products)
  • Broken or imperfect safety seals
  • Raw foods and cooked foods that are not kept separated
  • Servers handling raw meat and cooked food without washing their hands, or using the same utensil
  • Products with mould, discolouration or infestation

Self-service bars

Never touch the food with your hands and do not sneeze or cough near the food. If you see anyone mishandling the food, report it to a member of staff.

Each food should have its own utensil, such as a spoon or tongs.

Self-service salads should be in a chilled unit to keep them fresh.

You should also follow the supermarket's instructions carefully. For example, some food may need to be eaten within a certain time.

'Best before' and use-by dates

Always check your food’s best before and use-by dates before buying and eating it.

The best before date (sometimes written as ‘BBE’) tells you when the quality of the food will start to get worse, for example, the colour or texture might change. It may still be safe to eat. The best before date only applies if you have stored the food according to the instructions on the packaging.

Food that has passed its use-by date is not safe to eat and should be thrown out.

Why are there no ‘best before’ or ‘use-by’ date on my food?

These dates do not have to be declared on foods that are not pre-packed.

Some food shops do not have 'best before' dates on foods such as fresh bread, fruit and vegetables to help reduce food waste. You are encouraged to use your own judgement. Read more on Safe Food Ireland.

Read more about storing food safely and food safety in the home.

Packing your food shopping

In your trolley or basket

Choose refrigerated and frozen products towards the end of your shopping trip. This means they will stay cool for longer. Keep chilled and frozen food separated from hot food in your trolley or basket.

Avoid overloading your trolley as you may damage packaging.

At the checkout

When packing your food into shopping bags, you should keep:

  • Frozen foods together
  • Refrigerated foods together
  • Hot foods separated from cold foods
  • Delicate foods, such as bread and eggs, at the top of the bag
  • Heavy items at the bottom of the bag

You will not be subject to the Plastic Bag Environmental Levy if you use a smaller plastic bag to store meat, fish and poultry products, regardless of whether they are packaged or unpackaged. In addition, you will not be subject to the levy if you use smaller plastic bags to store non-packaged food.

The car journey home

Never leave your groceries in a warm car as germs multiply in warm temperatures.

If you are travelling a long distance, place your chilled and frozen products into a cool bag or box for the journey home.

Storing food at home

When you get home, immediately pack chilled and frozen products into the fridge or freezer. Check the condition of frozen products and do not re-freeze them if they have thawed. You should make sure your fridge temperature is below 4°C.

Read more about how to store food safely in the fridge and freezer.

Contact information

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

The Exchange
George's Dock
Dublin 1
D01 P2V6

Tel: +353 1 8171300
Fax: +353 1 8171301
Page edited: 15 April 2024