Guidance for food businesses
If you're setting up a new business, are an existing business, or just want to know a little more about food businesses, we advise you read the following guides:
- ‘Food Hygiene: A Guide for Businesses’
- ‘Starting up: Your first steps to running a catering business’
These guides have been written by the Food Standards Agency, and will cover most enquiries you may have. The Food Standards Agency website is a great resource for all food enquiries, and offers in-depth information on most food related topics. The same website also has information on food packaging and labelling.
The majority of food businesses will need to register with us 28 days before starting operation. This process is simple and free.
Food safety management systems
All food businesses are required to have a documented food safety management system. Using the Food Standards Agency’s “Safer Food Better Business” (SFBB) pack is an excellent way for most caterers to comply with this requirement.
Alternatively you can purchase a full-colour ring-bound printed pack and 12 month diary pack for £10 each plus postage and packaging. To request a pack please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 03456789046.
If you're a small manufacturing business, you may find that the Safer Food Better Business pack is not suitable to your specific needs, in which case the MyHACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) may be more suitable. This free web tool will guide you through the process of developing a food safety management system based on HACCP principles. Find out more about HACCP from the Food Standards Agency website.
Some businesses (such as butchers and delicatessens) where premises handle both raw and ready to eat products more often are classed as being high risk. The Food Standards Agency website provides more information on the more rigorous procedures required by such premises:
Food hygiene training
All food businesses must ensure all food handlers receive the appropriate level of supervision, instruction and training in order for them to handle food safely.
Staff personal hygiene
As a business owner it's important for you to oversee your staff’s personal hygiene in food preparation areas. You'll need to ensure that all staff are free from any illnesses that may be a risk to the public, and for them to report any such illnesses when appropriate.
Diarrhoea and/or vomiting are the most common symptoms of illnesses that can be transmitted through food. Staff handling food or working in a food handling area must report these symptoms to management immediately. Managers must exclude staff with these symptoms from working with or around open food, normally for 48 hours from when symptoms stop naturally. Find out more from our information sheet.
In addition, all staff who handle food and who work around open food must always wash and dry their hands before handling food, especially after going to the toilet. This is vital, as it's possible to be infected with certain diseases but not to exhibit symptoms.
For a more comprehensive guide please visit the Food Standard Agency website.
Cross-contamination is one of the most common causes of food poisoning, and is a concern for all businesses. Harmful bacteria such as E.coli O157, campylobacter and salmonella can easily spread to ready-to-eat (RTE) foods, such as salads and cooked foods, through direct contact with raw foods, or indirectly by staff, equipment, contaminated surfaces or cleaning materials.
Contaminated food can make your customers seriously ill, and can even kill. The Food Safety Agency has put together an excellent factsheet and guide that, if followed correctly, will help you control the risk of cross-contamination within your business.
Food Hygiene Rating Scheme for businesses
Food businesses open to the public will receive a food hygiene rating. The results are available to the general public via the Food Standard Agency website. The scheme is a great way to engage with the public and a great way to reassure the people of the food hygiene standards of your premises.
To help food businesses get the most out of their food hygiene rating, the Food Standards Agency has produced an online toolkit that offers ideas on how to promote hygiene standards, and help to increase the number of customers who come through the door or order online.
What do the scores mean?
- A score of 5 means that conditions are very good
- A score of 4 means that conditions are good
- A score of 3 means that conditions are generally satisfactory
- A score of 2 means that improvement is necessary
- A score of 1 means that major improvement is necessary
- A score of 0 means that urgent improvement is necessary
The rating system is based on the following criteria:
- How hygienically food is handled (safe food preparation, cooking, reheating, cooling and storage)
- The condition of the structure of the premises (cleanliness, repair, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities)
- How food safety is managed and documented (using systems such as ‘Safer food better business’ or equivalent)
If you're unhappy with your food hygiene rating you can apply for a re-score inspection.
Allergies are something most us will be aware of. We'll all have seen gluten-free options at restaurants and cafes, or noticed allergy information on food products we buy.
All food businesses need to provide information about the allergenic ingredients used in food sold or provided by them.
As a business, you must ensure that any specified allergens (or ingredients derived from the allergens) must be clearly declared in the ingredients list, and available to the public, the exception being where allergens are already in the name of the food (for instance 'peanut brittle').
The specified allergens are cereals containing gluten, crustaceans and molluscs, eggs, fish, soybeans, milk, peanuts, nuts, celery, mustard seeds, sulphur dioxide and sulphites (above 10mg/kg or 10mg/L), sesame seeds and lupin.
For more information on trading standards law take a look at the Business Companion website.
Health and safety
Information on occupational health and safety can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.
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