Shropshire Council

Advice for businesses producing ready meals or food to be reheated by the customer

It's understood that during the Covid-19 pandemic you may wish to produce takeaways and ready meals. It's important to highlight the difference between hot food takeaways and those businesses wanting to produce ‘ready meals’ or food for customers to reheat at home at a later point. We strongly advise that businesses produce hot takeaway food only.

When food is produced in your catering establishment and subsequently chilled or frozen for the customer to reheat the risk is substantially increased compared to a simple hot food takeaway. There are also specific labelling requirements.

We therefore ask that if you wish to provide such ready meals to be reheated by the customer you contact the Health Protection Team urgently on 0345 6789067 or email food as your food operation will need to be discussed on an individual basis.

We will wish to discuss your food safety controls directly with you. However, some factors you'll need to consider if you wish to undertake this process are:

  • If you use Safer Food Better Business it's unlikely to cover you for this sort of operation. You'll need to use a HACCP based system.
  • Core cooking temperatures and rapid cooling times will be critical.
  • The shelf life should be very short for chilled products. Safe shelf life is normally determined by laboratory analysis.
  • Maintaining the chill chain during delivery.

These and other food hygiene matters will need to be discussed with you direct. The Chilled Food Association has produced some guidance to assist you.

There are also food standards and labelling matters which you'll need to comply with. For each dish you'll need to state on your website (or make available to customers if they order by phone):

  • Name of the food, including a very short description as to what the food is if necessary.
  • The nature of the food, ie if it's supplied frozen/chilled/ready to eat, unless it's very obvious from your website or other information provided.
  • Full list of ingredients with the 14 specified allergens emphasised within that list.
  • A key to say how the allergens are highlighted, eg bold/capitals/different colour.
  • QUID (quantitative ingredient declaration) - percentage declaration of quantity of main ingredients in the dishes, eg within an ingredients list for beef lasagne: beef (x%); or for apple and sultana crumble: apples (x%), sultanas (x%)

The QUID is usually calculated at the mixing bowl stage of production. Calculate it by dividing the weight of the ingredient (X) by the combined weight of all the ingredients (Y) and multiplying by 100; the resulting number will be the percentage of the product that's made up of that ingredient.

For products that lose moisture during cooking or production - for example, butter biscuits - the QUID should be the percentage of the named ingredient in the product as sold.

  • Quantity, eg serves two and weight, weight only, liquid volume etc 
  • Full nutrition information unless you're supplying just the local area
  • Any cooking/reheating/freezing, defrosting and then cooking instructions etc
  • Storage instructions

Food label information should include:

  • Name of food
  • A list of the allergens
  • Date of freezing (if frozen)
  • Durability date
  • Storage instructions (if appropriate)
  • Any cooking/reheating/freezing/defrosting/cooking instructions etc
  • Business contact details

Find out more from the Business Companion website.