Food safety and hygiene
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the Pink Book of Legislation, we regret that we cannot be responsible for any errors. This guide is not intended to be a definitive statement of the law in England. If you require precise or detailed information on the legislation mentioned in this guide, or on the legal implications for you in particular, you should consult a professional legal adviser.
- If you supply food to guests you must comply with the provisions of food safety and hygiene legislation. The word 'food' is defined as including drink.
- You should not provide food that is unsafe (i.e., injurious to health) or unfit for human consumption.
- You must put in place and implement a food safety management system to ensure that the food you provide is safe to eat. These procedures must be based on the Food Safety Standard's Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles.
- You must not keep foods at a temperature that might make them unsafe to eat. There are specified temperatures that different hot or chilled foods must be kept at.
- Registration with the local authority is required for accommodation businesses that serve or supply food or drink of any description, including bed and breakfasts.
Food safety legislation
The most important food safety and hygiene legislation applying in the UK comprises:
- legislation relating to the hygiene of foodstuffs, namely EC Regulation No. 852/2004, which sets out the day-to-day requirements for food business operators
- legal requirements for temperature controls, as outlined in the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 (as amended) (and equivalent regulations in other UK countries)
- the enforcement provisions for local authorities, as contained in the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 (as amended) and the Food Safety Act 1990 (as amended).
Does food safety legislation apply to me?
Yes: if you supply food to guests, you must comply with the provisions of the legislation. The word 'food' is defined as including drink.
Main provisions of the legislation
General Food Law Regulation (EC) 178/2002
Regulation (EC) 178/2002 covers the placing of unsafe or unfit food on the market. You should not place food on the market (that is to sell or supply food, or hold it with intent to supply) which is:
- unsafe (i.e., injurious to health)
- unfit for human consumption, e.g., food that is rotten, 'gone off' or has been subject to considerable contamination would be unfit.
The Regulation also covers traceability. You should keep records of businesses which have supplied food to you and any businesses you supply food to. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) guidance says this should include:
- address of customer or supplier
- nature and quantity of products
- date of transaction and delivery.
This is to help when a food manufacturer needs to co-ordinate a withdrawal of unsafe food. There are offences for breaches of these provisions in the General Food Regulations 2004 (as amended).
Offences under the Food Safety Act 1990
- Rendering food injurious to health. Not only is it an offence to place food on the market which is harmful to health, it is also an offence to do anything which would make food harmful by adding something to it or removing something from it. This may apply even if you did not realise the effect of what you were doing at the time.
- Selling 'to the purchaser's prejudice' food which is not of the nature, substance or quality demanded. 'To the purchaser’s prejudice' means to his or her disadvantage. This includes things like supplying lemonade when low-calorie lemonade has been requested, or supplying a beef casserole when the customer has ordered lamb casserole.
- Falsely or misleading describing, advertising, or presenting food. This offence can be committed when statements or pictures concerning food are untrue. It can also cover statements that are strictly speaking correct but presented in such a way that the customer is led to the wrong conclusion. Bearing this in mind, you should take care with the descriptions of dishes on your menus. There is a similar provision about this in the General Food Law Regulation.
General food hygiene
Do the regulations apply to me?
Yes: if you are an accommodation provider that supplies food to guests, you must register with your local authority at least 28 days prior to trading and comply with the regulations. It does not matter if you are a small bed and breakfast, a five-star hotel or you provide meals in other circumstances. As a food business operator, the onus is on you to make sure you supply safe food.
If you are not sure whether you should register as a food business, you should speak to your local environmental health department for advice.
How do I comply?
Food safety management procedures
You must put in place and implement a food safety management system to ensure that the food you provide is safe to eat. These procedures must be based on the HACCP principles, although they can be proportionate to the nature and size of the business and should not be burdensome on small businesses. HACCP stands for:
This means that you must:
- analyse all potential food hazards - a hazard is anything that might hurt the consumer
- identify the points in operation where hazards might occur
- decide which of the points identified are critical to ensuring food safety
- identify and implement effective control and monitoring procedures at those critical points
- determine what corrective actions must be taken if your procedures are not working
- keep appropriate records to show your procedures are working
- review all of the above periodically and whenever your food operations change.
The amount of paperwork you will need to keep as part of your safety procedures will also depend on the size and nature of your business. Larger businesses will need to maintain some documented procedures in addition to their records.
The Food Standards Agency offers a number of models to help you comply with the record-keeping part of the procedures (see 'Safer Food, Better Business' in Further guidance below.) You can also contact your local authority for advice.
As a basic requirement, food premises must comply with the following:
- They must be kept clean, be well maintained and designed to enable good hygiene practices to be adhered to.
- They must have adequate hand-washing facilities available, with supplies of hot and cold water, and drying facilities suitably located and designated for cleaning hands. Toilets must not open directly into rooms where food is handled.
- They must must have adequate means of ventilation, lighting and drainage.
What is adequate in any situation will depend on the nature and size of the business. In addition, the following requirements apply to all rooms, except dining areas, in which food is prepared:
- Surface finishes to walls, doors, floors and equipment should be easy to clean and, if necessary, to disinfect.
- There must be adequate facilities for cleaning work tools and equipment and for washing food.
Slightly scaled down, but broadly similar, requirements apply to premises that are only used occasionally for catering purposes.
The full list of requirements are detailed in the Safer food, better business for caterers section of the FSA website.
Premises 'used primarily as a dwelling house but where foods are regularly prepared' (ie this might include some Bed and Breakfasts) are subject to slightly different requirements with regard to the rooms where food is prepared (Regulation (EC) 852/2004 Annex II Chapter III). Speak to the environmental health department of your local authority for guidance.
- Equipment: all equipment and other items which come into contact with food must be kept clean and well maintained and installed in such a way as to allow adequate cleaning of the surrounding area.
- Food waste: waste must not be allowed to accumulate and, as a general rule, must be kept in closed containers which are easy to clean and disinfect. The waste must be eliminated in a hygienic and environmentally-friendly way and must not constitute a direct or indirect source of contamination.
- Water supply: there must be an adequate supply of drinking water. Generally, this water supply should be used to make sure that food is not contaminated and any ice should be made from it.
- Cleaning agents: cleaning chemicals must not be stored in areas where food is handled.
- Personal hygiene: everyone working with food must maintain a high level of personal cleanliness, including clean clothing. You must not allow anyone suffering from an illness which could contaminate food to work in a food handling area. Additionally, staff working in food handling areas are required to report such illnesses to you. You should also ensure that good hand washing routines are maintained.
- Raw materials: you should not buy, or supply, any raw material that will not be fit for human consumption.
- Protection against contamination: all food must be protected against any form of contamination, including pests, which would make it fail food safety requirements.
- Training: all staff handling food must receive training commensurate or appropriate to the work they do. The Industry Guide to Good Hygiene Practice: Catering Guide (currently being updated) states that:
- high-risk food handlers such as those who prepare high-risk foods, should hold a basic or foundation certificate (level 2)
- a waiter/waitress would require hygiene awareness training (level 1)
- the person responsible for implementing the food hygiene management system must have received adequate training to enable them to do this.
The full list of requirements are detailed in the FSA guide pack Safer Food, better business for caterers.