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Food Safety and the Law

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 20 Jun 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Food Safety Work Law Food Safety Act

The safety of food is essential to any consumer and so should be a priority for any food business. Consumers want to be assured that the food they buy and eat is:

  • What it is labelled to be (i.e. Doesn't contain pork if it is labelled as beef)
  • Will not harm them once eaten

In order to protect the public, various laws regulate food retailers. These include:

  • The Food Safety Act 1990
  • The General Food Law Regulation (Regulation EC 178/2002)
  • General Food Regulations 2004
  • Food Hygiene Regulations 2006

This legislation applies to anyone working with food, at the production, processing, storage, distribution or sale stages. Small businesses are not exempt from these regulations, neither are non-profit making organisations.

Offences under the Food Safety Act 1990

The Food Safety Act 1990 created three key offences:
  1. Rendering food injurious to health (e.g. selling gluten-free food that actually contains gluten)
  2. Selling food which is not of the nature or quality demanded (e.g. selling chicken nuggets made with chicken fat rather than actual meat)
  3. Falsely or misleadingly describing or presenting food (e.g. selling horsemeat mince labelled as beef)

The Punishments

The punishment for committing any of the above offences is:

For offences 1 & 2 - up to a £20,000 fine for each offence, or each time one of those offences is committed

For offence 3 - up to a £5000 fine

For any offence - up to 6 months imprisonment
(NB: In Scotland, the maximum punishment is up to a £10,000 fine and / or 12 months imprisonment)

Those who occasionally prepare food for gatherings or to sell at charitable events are not subject to the above offences, but still have duties regarding food hygiene under the General Food Regulations 2004.

Food Hygiene

Food retailers must by law have in place procedures to manage food safety, based upon the principles set out in Article 5(2) of the European Community Regulations. There is no law about what these procedures must be, as long as they address the seven principles set out in the Regulations.

The Seven Principles: HACCP

These seven principles are known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point principles, or HACCP. The principles are:
  1. Conduct a hazard analysis (identify food safety hazards)
  2. Identify critical control points (the stages at which a hazard can be prevented or eliminated)
  3. Establish critical limits for each critical control point (the maximum and minimum level to which a hazard must be controlled)
  4. Establish critical control monitoring requirements (the monitoring activities needed to ensure compliance with the procedure)
  5. Establish corrective actions (actions to be taken when monitoring indicates non-compliance)
  6. Establish procedures to ensure that the HACCP system works as intended (validate and periodically review points 1-6)
  7. Establish record keeping procedures (keep a written plan on points 1-6, and record monitoring activities and their findings)

What the World Health Organisation Says

The World Health Organisation identifies some key hazards which will need to be considered in your plan:
  • pest control
  • separation of raw and cooked foods
  • storing food at the correct temperature
  • using safe, clean water
  • cooking food at a suitable temperature and for a suitable time to kill pathogens

Ensuring Compliance/Qualifications

It is primarily for the owners of a food retail business to ensure compliance with relevant laws, and they can be fined (and in some cases forced to close) if they do not comply. However, all employees or volunteers do have a role to play in ensuring food safety and complying with the procedures put in place to prevent hazards.

I work in a care home and last week I had to make breakfast for a few people. Do I need a food and hygiene certificate to do this? If I do, can I refuse to prepare food until I have obtained the necessary certification?

There is no legal requirement for anyone working with food to have any formal qualifications relating to food handling or food safety. However food retailers and their staff do need to have an awareness of basic principles covered on formal courses in order to comply with applicable laws and Regulations.

I work in a bowling club that has a kitchen. On some occasions food is put on - does the person making the food need food hygiene certificate? We are a private club.

The most common formal qualification is the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) Food Handling qualification.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health

The CIEH food handling qualification is in three levels.

Level One is priced at approximately £17.50 plus VAT and covers topics such as: Food Poisoning; Food Storage; Personal Health and Hygiene; Cross contamination and Pests.

Level Two is priced at approximately £25 plus VAT and expands on Level One topics, as well as including topics such as: Cleaning; Risk assessment; Relevant legislation and Licensing.

Level Three is priced at £125 plus VAT and expands on Level topics, as well as focusing on supervisory management and giving food safety training to others.

Many food retailers (particularly larger chain restaurants) have their own training programmes in place. This will often be a combination of computer programmes (mini online lectures) and a written workbook, which covers all of these areas. As stated above, formal qualifications are not necessary, and you may choose to give training on a staff training day via oral discussion instead, which is just as acceptable.

TIP: If you choose to simply give Food Safety Training orally, such as at a staff meeting, ask staff to sign a declaration to confirm that they have received this training. As best practice, you should aim to give all staff this training approximately once a year to refresh Food Safety awareness.

It is not possible in this guide to go into depth about every food safety topic. However you will find below some key facts about some of the most important areas. You should ensure that you consider each area and adopt appropriate measures to address these hazards. The laws as detailed above are quite basic, and so it is up to you how to moderate your business to comply with these; there are no specific laws about what you must wear in a kitchen for example, but clearly wearing mud-stained clothing would not be appropriate. The below points are for guidance only and are considered best practice by many in the industry.

1) Food Poisoning

Symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Foods particularly susceptible to contamination, include raw meat, pre-cooked sliced meats/sandwiches, and dairy products such as eggs and soft cheese. The most common types of bacteria causing food poisoning are salmonella, E.coli, campylobacter and Listeria. Symptoms of food poisoning can occur anything from a few hours after to eating, to up to 70 days after in the most severe cases. The onset times depend upon the type of food poisoning.

2) Personal Health and Hygiene

I started work as a kitchen assistant recently at a residential home. The kitchen manager has told me I can no longer wear my watch due to health and safety. I am not forced to tie my hair up, I just have to wear a kind of baseball cap, which doesn't seem right. Also I am allowed to keep my wedding ring on. What are the actual requirements as far as dress and food preparation are concerned?

Food handlers should wear minimal jewellery - this is a contamination risk. Most kitchens allow food handlers to just wear a plain wedding band (i.e. no watch/earrings/necklace etc.

Some other rules for food handlers to follow are as follows:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before handling any food product and after touching any raw meat
  • Follow basic hygiene practices such as showering and wearing clean clothing
  • Avoid habits such as smoking or nail biting when handling food
  • Wear clean clothing when handling food - a protective jacket ensures food will not be contaminated by clothes that have been worn in the outside world, and protects clothes underneath from oil/fat stains. Long sleeves will also protect against spitting fat.
  • Tie hair back. It also helps to prevent contamination of food (such as hairs in food) if a hat is worn to cover hair.
  • Any wound should be covered with a waterproof plaster. This should be in a "detectable" colour (usually blue) so that it is easily spotted if it were to fall off. Blue plasters can be bought from most supermarkets.
  • If a food handler has sickness or diarrhoea, they should not handle food for at least 24 hours after the symptoms have subsided to avoid contaminating food (and passing the illness to other employees).

3) Food storage

Raw and cooked meat should always be stored separately. Any raw meat should be stored below cooked food so that the juices do not contaminate the cooked food. If you serve food for those with special dietary requirements, you should carefully consider what foods you store near other products (for example don't store bread next to gluten-free cooked pasta, as it might be contaminated by excess flour etc). Make sure you rotate your stock and do not use food beyond the "use by" date. Do not store cooked food for longer than approximately 3 days (even if stored in a fridge). Remember if it's mouldy/smells off, do not be tempted to serve it even if it is within its "use by" date.

4) Temperature Control

There are specific guidelines for temperature control:
  • Your fridges should store food at 3 to 5ºC and your freezer should store food at -18ºC or colder
  • If food is at any temperature between approximately 4ºC and 60ºC, it is described as being in "the danger zone". This refers to the temperature band at which harmful bacteria multiply the fastest
  • Refrigerating food does not kill bacteria, but it does slow their growth
  • Freezing food does not kill bacteria; they are merely dormant
  • Most food cooked to a minimum at 65ºC should ensure that bacteria are killed. However there are exceptions: pork and chicken should be cooked to approximately 75ºC (as a core temperature) to ensure that it is safe to eat

5) Pest Control

Pests are a problem for any food establishment, as food attracts pests. Common pests are insects, birds and rodents, the easiest way to keep out larger pests is to close doors and windows. Kitchens should be cooled by specially installed kitchen fans. If you need to open the door, use netting to cover the doorway to keep out pests.

Many kitchens have regular pest inspections by reputable companies such as Rentokil. Keep a record of any such inspections. Common signs of pests are small holes in dry food packets (especially grain), droppings, and dirty marks along the bottom of walls.

6) Licensing

Many establishments that serve food also serve alcohol. It is therefore essential that staff know the laws surrounding alcohol licensing. You must have a licence to serve alcohol, and that licence will specify the times at which you may do so. If a 16-17 year old eats a meal at a licensed restaurant, and are with a supervising adult (over 18 year old), they may have one small glass of wine, one beer or one cider. However technically it must be the adult who buys the drink, not the minor.

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[Add a Comment]
I am employed in a day care center as a care worker when our chef is on holiday our boss tells us we have to go into the industrial kitchen and cook meals for all the service user's we all have our hygiene certificates but no trainingat all on how to use kitchen equipment is this lawful??
JOOLZ - 20-Jun-18 @ 7:15 PM
Is there any law against chefs wearing shorts in the kitchen when preparing food
Pam - 15-Jun-18 @ 6:56 PM
I work in a cafeteria two times per well however I have worked in this type of industries for a international company. To be honest I am astonished to witness some food and hygiene practices.!! I was handed a meal consisting of cod, the cod look rather pale I asked the cook if the door was cooked throughly and probed I was assured it was.!! Sadly the meals was returned by the customers stating the cod was very waterier!!! The cook said I made him feel uncomfortable because I asked the question. Was I right to question the standard of the food.?
Roy - 11-Jun-18 @ 6:39 PM
Jayne- Your Question:
I work in a school kitchen as an assistant, today our boss said that we could be sued personally if we served food that was under temperature that made someone ill even if management told us to serve it as it was. Is this true?

Our Response:
It's usually the organisation that would be sued for this kind of thing. Of course if an individual employee served food below the recommended temperature, an employer could take action against them too. As a kitchen worker it's your responsibility to adhere to food hygiene practices and you can rightly refuse to do something that contravenes them - even if a manager tells you to. An employment tribunal/HSE would probably support you if this affected your job.
SafeWorkers - 11-Jun-18 @ 3:09 PM
I work in a school kitchen as an assistant, today our boss said that we could be sued personally if we served food that was under temperature that made someone ill even if management told us to serve it as it was. Is this true?
Jayne - 8-Jun-18 @ 4:31 PM
Hey guy, I'm a head chef and in a middle of a fight about using metal scouring pads. In the last place I could use them but the out of front manger. Won't let me as the met police she used to work said it break down and can't be used. The soft green pads do back to clean the hard things off. Where do I stand?
Nix - 30-May-18 @ 11:35 PM
Dd - Your Question:
Can my company sack me for going to work on Thursday working my shift of 8hours while suffering from sickness.Then go into work on Friday having sickness and the onset of diahohea. Having already explaining my food didn't go down well on the Wednesday and kept repeating on me Can they then sack me for going home 2"hours into my shift on Friday

Our Response:
We can't commment on this as it depends on your employer's sickness policy and your previous absence record.
SafeWorkers - 18-May-18 @ 2:32 PM
Can my company sack me for going to work on Thursday working my shift of 8hours while suffering from sickness. Then go into work on Friday having sickness and the onset of diahohea. Having already explaining my food didn't go down well on the Wednesday and kept repeating on me Can they then sack me for going home 2"hours into my shift on Friday
Dd - 17-May-18 @ 8:03 PM
Craig - Your Question:
I am doing a charity BBQ IN June 2018, I know that people who are preparing the food are required to wear gloves, do the guys who are cooking the burgers/sausage etc required to wear gloves, as I think wearing these made be more of a hindrance due to the heat from the BBQ.Please can you give me some guidance.Many thanksCraig

Our Response:
Wearing of gloves is not a legal requirement for food handlers. Washing hands frequently is much more hygienic than wearing the same pair of gloves for a time.
SafeWorkers - 4-May-18 @ 2:32 PM
I am doing a charity BBQ IN June 2018, I know that people who are preparing the food are required to wear gloves, do the guys who are cooking the burgers/sausage etc required to wear gloves, as I think wearing these made be more of a hindrance due to the heat from the BBQ. Please can you give me some guidance. Many thanks Craig
Craig - 3-May-18 @ 8:24 AM
Nikki - Your Question:
Hi I work for Greggs bakery as a retail assistant. I have an engagement ring on that I can’t remove. I’ve tried to remove it but it won’t come off. Can you tell me the law regarding this please

Our Response:
The law is that staff must wear suitable, clean clothing and, where necessary, protective clothing, which minimises the risk of them contaminating food. The guidelines say that no jewellery except a wedding band should be worn. Talk to your manager...if you can't remove the ring, your employer may consider it acceptable to cover it with a blue waterproof plaster, to keep the stone from falling into food etc.
SafeWorkers - 2-May-18 @ 11:34 AM
Hi I work for Greggs bakery as a retail assistant. I have an engagement ring on that I can’t remove. I’ve tried to remove it but it won’t come off.Can you tell me the law regarding this please
Nikki - 29-Apr-18 @ 10:13 AM
Should Making naan (Bread) in Tandoor Without Wearing Gloves Be a Punishable Offense?
Afi - 26-Apr-18 @ 9:06 PM
I Worked at a food factory spiting on site I band. I don't normaly spit but I had moldy food wast and cleaning chemicals I took measures to control where I spit eg bin sink I understand the law says no spitting but In the circumstances do I have justified reason for spitting and wrong Iv lost my job
Joel - 23-Apr-18 @ 12:24 PM
Sam - Your Question:
Can someone come into a school kitchen on a health n hygiene level 1 and do the job of a cook and assistants cooks place

Our Response:
Businesses are required by law, to ensure that food handlers receive "appropriate supervision and instruction/training in food hygiene in line with their work activity", they do not however, have to hold a food hygiene certificate to prepare or sell food.
SafeWorkers - 20-Apr-18 @ 3:08 PM
Can someone come into a school kitchen on a health n hygiene level 1 and do the job of a cook and assistants cooks place
Sam - 18-Apr-18 @ 3:20 PM
Hi, I'm looking for some advice. I am looking to open a protein bar within my work. This will be powdered protein bought in and we will be mixing it with water and selling it. Can you point me in the right direction for more information ie do i need a food hygiene pass before this can be done even if its protein drink and not technically food? any information is appreciated.
Fitnessadvisor01 - 8-Apr-18 @ 2:56 PM
I work on a steam railway and I have been asked to serve the customers wearing my chef whites . This means walking in and out of carriages with dogs in . Am I right in saying its not a done thing
T - 31-Mar-18 @ 12:56 AM
Andi1972 - Your Question:
I work in a staff canteen within a factory.Can I wear a knee length skirt without tights? It’s very warm and my manager said if I wear a skirt I have to wear thick black tights! Is this a legal requirement?

Our Response:
It's not a legal requirement but if your employer prefers covered legs for hygiene or uniform reasons it's perfectly acceptable. The alternative would be to wear trousers, which is what many canteen workers wear. Here are the general rules:
Every person working in a food-handling area must maintain a high level of personal cleanliness.
Staff must wear suitable, clean clothing and, where necessary, protective clothing, which minimises the risk of them contaminating food. A washable, light coloured (to show the dirt) overall is best. It should be designed for the job – for instance, if a food handler is using dough regularly, a short sleeved overall may be best. As a minimum an apron or tabard must be worn when handling food. Press stud fastenings should be used in preference to buttons, which can fall into food, or Velcro, which is difficult to clean. If wearing an overall, don’t have pockets on the outside, as they can contain things, like pens, which can fall into food.
Staff should keep hair tied back and it is recommended that they wear a suitable head covering, eg hat or hairnet, when preparing food.
Staff should not wear watches or jewellery when preparing food (except a wedding band). If staff are allowed to wear earrings, they should be one piece with no butterfly fixings. Staff should not touch their face and hair, smoke, spit, sneeze, eat or chew gum when they are handling food.
Washable plasters (preferably coloured) must be provided in the first aid box.
SafeWorkers - 28-Mar-18 @ 2:19 PM
I work in a staff canteen within a factory.Can I wear a knee length skirt without tights? It’s very warm and my manager said if I wear a skirt I have to wear thick black tights! Is this a legal requirement?
Andi1972 - 26-Mar-18 @ 9:41 PM
I visit a fast food place where half the staff do no wear hats or gloves whilst preparing food. Is this ok?
Elliot - 22-Mar-18 @ 4:20 PM
I currently live and work in a pub that is company owned, and I don't have a domestic kitchen in the accommodation. Are we permitted by law/EHO to use/cook in the pubs commercial kitchen?
Elvis - 21-Mar-18 @ 8:54 PM
MJ - Your Question:
I work in a busy cafe preparing and serving hot and cold meals. Due to the fact my fingernails are so weak and tear off so easily I have had short acrylic nails put on so they can't come off in food. My boss is unsure what the legislation would be regarding this? I have looked but can't seem to find a definitive answer. Please could you let me know, thank you ??

Our Response:
The law does not mentions false nails specifically but states that every person working in a food-handling area is to maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and is to wear suitable, clean and, where necessary, protective clothing.
The owner must use his/her judgement on this really.
SafeWorkers - 21-Mar-18 @ 12:09 PM
I work in a busy cafe preparing and serving hot and cold meals. Due to the fact my fingernails are so weak and tear off so easily I have had short acrylic nails put on so they can't come off in food. My boss is unsure what the legislation would be regarding this? I have looked but can't seem to find a definitive answer. Please could you let me know, thank you ??
MJ - 19-Mar-18 @ 3:20 PM
Lolly - Your Question:
Wearing of studs are we allowed to wears studs or sleepers in catering??MAT

Our Response:
This depends on the policy of your employer. Generally jewellery is not allowed but some employers allow a plain wedding band and small stud earrings.
SafeWorkers - 12-Mar-18 @ 1:53 PM
Wearing of studs are we allowed to wears studs or sleepers in catering??MAT
Lolly - 9-Mar-18 @ 6:30 PM
Kiley - Your Question:
I work in a kitchen at a nursery and have to wear a chefs uniform, I just wanted to no if the uniform is covered under PPE. Also am I wrong in asking them to provide me with 5 chefs jackets to cover me for the week, and should I have to pay for any of them.

Our Response:
The PPE legislation doesn't apply to ‘protective clothing’used in the food industry primarily for food hygiene purposes. Your employer can expect you to washthem (you can sometimes claim a tax rebate for this) as you would if you were wearing clothes in any job. You could try negotiating with your employer. Your employer should provide you with sufficient uniform but asking for 5 might be considered unreasonable. There aren't many people who only do one wash a week. Alternatively you could ask for them to be washed with other items such as tea towels etc (what is the procedure for that?)
SafeWorkers - 7-Mar-18 @ 3:16 PM
Iwork in a kitchen at a nursery and have to wear a chefs uniform, i just wanted to no if the uniform is covered under PPE. Also am I wrong in asking them to provide me with 5 chefs jackets to cover me for the week, and should I have to pay for any of them.
Kiley - 6-Mar-18 @ 8:28 PM
Hi I work in a nursery kitchen, was just wondering if the law states that I need to wear a particular uniform. I am currently wearing my own clothes which I don't mind wearing, my manager is talking about getting chef whites. Do I really need to wear these?
Sharon - 19-Jan-18 @ 4:01 PM
I work as a supervisor withthree other supervisors working with18 special needs adults some with downs syndrome some with Learning difficulties we work In a non profit makingCafe the special needs assist us to prepare the food and to serve thefood to members of the public question is my Colleague said it is not Compulsory or law that you have to wear a hat in the cafe seving and preparing food I thought that it was compulsory to wear a hat we wear aprons and I wear a hat but my colleague (female) said it is not compulsory or the law! Please can anyone clarify this.
Mr.T - 19-Jan-18 @ 7:27 AM
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