FOOD SAFETY UK: All businesses dealing in foodstuffs must make sure:
- The product is safe to eat (see SFBB information packs for details).
- Nothing gets added, removed, or makes it harmful to eat.
- The food is the same quality as implied or stated by the operation.
- Public and consumers are not misled by any advertising, food and drink labelling, or marketing.
- The business displays its food hygiene rating (if it is selling food or drink products direct to the public).
- Keep proper records on where you got food from and be able to show the information for inspection on demand.
- Unsafe food is withdrawn and an incident report is duly completed. You must also inform consumers why it got withdrawn or recalled (e.g. using leaflets or posters).
Note: The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has further guidance notes for food business operators on food safety, traceability, product withdrawal and recall.
Using Food Additives and Improvement Agents
All food businesses are responsible for the safety of food. As such, using an additive in foodstuffs means you must:
- Not use any amount of food additive that exceeds its maximum permitted level.
- Only use additives approved by the Food Standards Agency.
- Only use food improvement agents approved for use with that particular food product.
Safer Food, Better Business (SFBB)
Managing food hygiene is an integral part of complying with food safety and hygiene regulations. All staff need good personal hygiene to run and manage a food business. There are several ways to ensure the food you serve is safe for consumption.
Writing an HACCP Food Plan
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. As a rule, after registering as a food business, and then running one, you would need to write a plan based on the principles of HACCP.
The aim of your HACCP plan is to help keep food safe from biological, chemical, and from physical safety hazards. Thus, making a plan means:
- Identifying any hazards that need to be avoided, removed, or reduced.
- Identify the critical control points to focus on. A CCP is a hazardous situation that must be prevented, removed, or reduced in working processes.
- Set out limits for all the CCPs and monitor them as a continuous process.
- Correct any problems identified with a critical control point.
- Have checks in place to ensure the HACCP is working and keep records of the plan.
Note: If a food business gets inspected, the inspector will want to see the HACCP records kept in place. The Food Standards Agency has detailed advice on food hazard analysis based on HACCP.
Food Contact Materials Regulation
Certain types of materials and packaging must come into contact with foods and drinks. The most common types of ‘food contact materials’ include:
- Food processing equipment
- Work surfaces
But, there are methods you should use to help keep food safe for consumption, such as making sure:
- The food contact materials do not transfer anything onto food that they touch.
- The food contact materials do not ‘change’ the food that they come into contact with.
- You can show where the food contact materials originated from when you get an inspection.
Bacteria and Food Poisoning Causes
Following an HACCP plan can help your food business operation keep products safe from bacteria. Common types of bacteria that can cause serious public health problems include:
- E.coli O157 and campylobacter
- Salmonella (particularly with the handling and storage of eggs)
Note: You can read more on how to reduce the risk of E. coli O157 cross-contamination in your food business.
Staff Hygiene Training for Handling Foodstuffs
You will be responsible for staff hygiene training if the company you run is employing people. Even so, you would be able to choose between informal training (e.g. self study or on the job training) and sending your workers on a formal programme.
Managing Food Allergies
As a food retailer, or a caterer, you will need to manage food allergies when preparing and selling food and drink products to the public.
Council Food Hygiene Inspections
The local council can make an inspection at any point in the food production and distribution process. As a rule, inspectors will not announce it or tell you in advance. But, they must follow the Food Law Code of Practice when enforcing the regulations.
How much risk your particular business poses to public health will determine how often you get inspected. But, being a member of one of the recognised food assurance schemes may lessen the number of inspections.
You are more likely to get inspected as a food retailer or a catering business. The local authority will want to see you are complying with food safety and your responsibilities for working with food.
Inspectors can examine food, premises, procedures, and records. They can also take photographs and take away food samples.
Note: You can search online to contact the food safety team in your area (council enforcement officers).
What Happens After a Food Inspection?
After the inspection, you will get a letter that confirms any improvements you need to make (and by which date). As a rule, it would be your responsibility to confirm the completion of any improvements.
Any serious food safety problems will result in a ‘notice’. Receiving the notice means you could get banned from using certain equipment or processes until you make the improvements. The two common types of notices are:
- Hygiene Improvement Notice
- Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notices (a ban on using certain equipment or following certain processes)
Note: The inspectors would revisit the business to verify the improvements stated in the notice got carried out.
How to Appeal a Decision
Any letter or notice you receive from the council enforcement officers will notify you how to appeal a decision by an inspector.
Report a food safety incident
If you think your business has unsafe food, or sold some, you must inform the Food Standards Agency. The FSA will tell you whether to withdraw the food and get your customers to return it. Contact the FSA to submit a food safety incident report.