Food safety enforcement
- Category: Environmental health
- Last Updated: 17 October 2016
Advice and guidance on food safety and details of the legislation applicable to food businesses involved in the preparation of food.
The laws on food hygiene changed in 2006 and emphasise the ways in which risks to the safety of food are managed. Food businesses have a clear legal duty to make sure that food served or sold to customers is safe to eat.
Every food business will have different risks, depending upon the type of food that is prepared and the way in which it is produced and handled. A written food safety management plan and procedures, based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles, must now be put in place, implemented and maintained (see Safer Food Better Business).
The main areas of legislation that cover general food business are:
- The Food Safety Act 1990
- The General Food Regulations 2004
- The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006
- The Food Labelling Regulations 1996
- Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 (lays down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety)
- Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 (regards the hygiene of foodstuffs)
- Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 (laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin)
The legislation makes it an offence for anyone to sell (or keep for sale) food that is unfit for people to eat or cause food to be dangerous to health, sell food that isn't what the customer is entitled to expect in terms of content or quality, or describe or present food in a way that is false or misleading.
It also places an obligation on businesses to ensure that their activities are carried out in a hygienic way. As a proprietor, you are responsible for checking specifically what you need to do to comply with the law. Failure to do this could lead to formal action being taken, which could result in financial penalties and accompanying adverse publicity.
Some food businesses also require a licence from the Licensing Team e.g. for the service of hot food and drink between the hours of 11pm and 5am.
Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 sets out the basic hygiene principles that food businesses must follow in relation to staff, premises and food handling. Under the regulations, you must have effective controls necessary to avoid contamination, to ensure that food is produced safely and that the health of your customers is not put at risk. The controls include:
- premises are clean and in a good state of repair
- good drainage, lighting and ventilation
- sufficient waste disposal facilities
- toilet facilities for staff
- equipment is in good condition and kept clean
- permanent arrangements for pest control which guard against infestation by rats, mice, flies, cockroaches and other insects
- an effective cleaning routine
- staff who are appropriately clothed and trained and have good personal hygiene habits
- arrangements for ensuring that all foods received into the premises are in good condition
- handling, storage and transport practices which meet temperature control requirements and avoid contamination
You must identify potential hazards associated with your business and introduce which will control the risks and to ensure food safety.
Schedule 4 of The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 requires certain foods to be held at temperatures that will prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
It is an offence to allow food to be kept at temperatures that would cause a risk to health, so you must make sure foods that need temperature control are kept at the right temperature.
- Foods that need to be kept hot should be kept at 63°C or above
- Foods that need to be kept cold should be kept at 8°C or below (preferably at 5°C or below)
- Foods that need to be kept frozen should be kept between -18°C to -24°C
For further information or advice contact Health and Environment on 01653 600666.
Advice and guidance
Who is affected?
Anyone who owns, manages or works in a food business, apart from those working in primary food production such as harvesting, slaughtering or milking, is affected by these Regulations. They apply to anything from a hot dog van to a five star restaurant, from a village hall where food is prepared to a large supermarket, or to a vending machine. This is true whether you sell publicly or privately, in a hotel or in a marquee, for profit or for fundraising. The Regulations do not apply to food cooked at home for private consumption. Every process which deals with preparing or selling food can be classed as a food business activity, including:-
Generally, anyone who handles food, or whose actions could affect its safety, must follow the Regulations. This includes people who sell food (whether to retailers or to the public) and anyone who cleans articles or equipment which come into contact with food.
What do they cover?
The Regulations apply to all types of food and drink and their ingredients. But some businesses, generally manufacturers of products of animal origin such as dairies or wholesale fish markets, follow their own product specific regulations.
Identifying and controlling food hazards
As the proprietor of a food business, you must:-
- make sure food is supplied or sold in a hygienic way
- identify food safety hazards
- know which steps in your activities are critical for food safety
- ensure safety controls are in place, maintained and reviewed
- the majority of food businesses are required to have a documented food safety management system in place. For catering businesses the 'Safer Food Better Business pack, published by the Food Standards Agency, is available in a number of languages.
Basic hygiene requirements
The Regulations aim to set out basic hygiene principles and focus on how to identify and control food safety risks at each stage of the process of preparing and selling food. Rather than simply following a list of rules, the Regulations let you assess the risk to food safety and then apply controls relevant to your own situation. Not all the requirements for the structure and equipment of food premises will apply to you. Some are followed by the words "where appropriate" or "where necessary". For example, one provision states that, "where appropriate" floors must allow surface drainage. But where you have a system to ensure water does not build up, so that there is no risk to food safety, actual floor drains may not be necessary. So there is no absolute requirement to have them.
Basic requirements for food businesses
Food premises should:-
- be clean and maintained in good repair
- be designed and constructed to permit good hygiene practices
- have an adequate supply of potable (drinking) water
- have suitable controls in place to protect against pests
- have adequate natural and/or artificial lighting
- have sufficient natural and/or mechanical ventilation
- provide clean lavatories which do not lead directly into food rooms
- have adequate hand washing facilities; and
- be provided with adequate drainage.
Rooms where food is prepared, treated or processed should generally have surface finishes which are easy to clean, and where necessary, disinfect. This would, for instance, apply to wall, floor and equipment finishes.
The rooms should also have:
- adequate facilities for washing food and equipment; and
- adequate facilities for the storage and removal of food waste.
Of course, many of the Regulations are basic minimum hygiene standards which apply to every food business. But how they are applied still depends on the situation. For example, every food premises must be kept clean. But how they are cleaned, and how often, will be different for a manufacturer of ready-to-eat meals than for a bakery selling bread.
For further information contact Health and Environment on 01653 600666.