What every business needs to know
If you are involved in a food business you are responsible for ensuring that the food you provide is accurately described and safe to eat.
This means you not only have to comply with food safety legislation but also satisfy customer demands.
Legislation sets the standards food businesses must follow to ensure food provided for the public is safe to eat. The Food Safety Team enforcing these requirements and asses each food business to verify the safety of its food. You must clearly show that you have identified the activities in your business that are the most important in ensuring the safety of the food you provide.
Written records should be kept as proof of your monitoring and control procedures as these will help to show what you are doing as part of your food safety management system. The Food Standards Agency's Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) system is recommended to help you monitor and control your food safety risks - for more information see the related links on the left.
In addition to the information in the related media and links available from the menus, you may also find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions to help you determine how best to comply with the law, and to satisfy and protect your customers.
What is safe food?
Food which does not contain anything that may cause harm to the consumer. Harmful substances include:
- Bacteria - such as salmonella - remember pathogenic bacteria will not affect the smell, taste or look of the food
- Physical objects - such as glass, hair etc. - remember adequately wrapping food will help to eliminate this risk.
- Chemicals - such as cleaning materials - remember to store chemicals away from food
How safe is your food?
Regulations require you, as the proprietor of a food business, to determine the safety of the food on your premises. This includes both the foods you buy in and those you prepare on site.
You should also identify any steps in the preparation of the food that are critical to ensuring the safety of that food such as thorough cooking or refrigerated storage.
You can determine the safety of your food by answering the following questions:
What types of food do you use in your business and how will they need to be stored? Do they need to be kept under special conditions such as chilled? Are they adequately wrapped?
Consider for example:
- Canned food - remember once the tin is open to decant the food and treat it like fresh produce
- Fresh meat and poultry - remember to store raw meats away from ready to eat foods
- Dairy products
- Frozen food - remember not to over stock freezers
What controls do you need over the food supplied to your business?
Consider for example:
- Do you only buy food from reputable suppliers?
- Are chilled or frozen foods delivered in temperature controlled vehicles?
- Do you check durability dates and the condition of packaging on receipt?
- Do you store food in accordance with the manufacturers instructions?
- Do you make sure deliveries are put away quickly?
What harmful or unwanted substances may already be present in the foods you handle?
Consider for example:
- Salmonella bacteria could be present in both frozen and fresh poultry
- Weevils could be present in dry products such as flour
Remember purchasing from reputable suppliers with temperature controlled vehicles (where needed) helps you to prove you have acted correctly.
Which of the handling processes you carry out are the most important in ensuring the food is safe to eat?
- Storing ready to eat foods e.g. cooked meats in the fridge slows down the growth of bacteria
- Cooking food such as spare ribs kills the bacteria which may cause food poisoning - remember not to allow the cooked items to become re-contaminated.
- Cooling food quickly will reduce the chance for bacteria to grow
- Using separate boards/knives for raw and ready to eat foods will help to reduce the risk of cross contamination
How can you make sure the processes you have identified are undertaken effectively?
- Measure and record fridge and freezer temperatures
- Write a cleaning schedule to ensure the premises and equipment are cleaned regularly and with the correct chemicals
- Train all your staff on cleaning standards and working practices
How can you monitor that all this is running smoothly?
- Records can be kept for the temperature checks you make
- Inspect the date on incoming goods before storing them
- Cleaning audits
What information do I need to include on labels?
For a simple explanation of what should be included on food labels visit the the interactive section of the Food Standards Agency website - see the related links section on the right. Further detailed advice may be available from trade organisations, public analysts and either your local Environmental Health or Trading Standards service.
You should repeat this series of questions whenever you make any changes in your business.
Remember these are only examples, your business will involve other processes not mentioned in these brief notes. You may also think of additional questions to ask yourself that are specific to your business.
- Food Safety - Public Protection Full details for Food Safety - Public Protection