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Food Safety and the Law

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 20 Aug 2017 | 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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
What exactly uk law says about consuming food in industrial food preparation areas? (Eating in restaurants kitchen).Where could I get accurate information in these legislations. I heard that it is strictly not allowed.But we must taste meals by using two spoon method, so how eating with separate spoon from separate plate is not ok if using two spoons from big pot is fine?
Chef Vic - 20-Aug-17 @ 4:59 PM
Jb - Your Question:
Hi my partner cooks for about 260 300 people a day there was 3 staff now there's 2 cut backs.there was a helper that's off sick.my partner has been on here own all day no break no cover at all.is this right.need information about her rights

Our Response:
There are no specific laws to cover this, but if your partner feels she cannot cope/is being treated unfairly, she should raise a grievance with her employer.
SafeWorkers - 17-Aug-17 @ 11:25 AM
Hi my partner cooks for about 260 300 people a day there was 3 staff now there's 2 cut backs .there was a helper that's off sick .my partner has been on here own all day no break no cover at all .is this right .need informationabout her rights
Jb - 15-Aug-17 @ 1:32 PM
pmoore14- Your Question:
Hi is there any legal requirements for amount of staff to run kitchen example some days there can be 4 staff on other days 2

Our Response:
No there no specific numbers given as they will vary depeding on the size of an organisation. Check your employer's policy to see if anything is covered there.
SafeWorkers - 31-Jul-17 @ 10:59 AM
Hi is there any legal requirementsfor amount of staff to run kitchen example some days there can be 4 staff on other days 2
pmoore14 - 27-Jul-17 @ 10:07 AM
Lu - Your Question:
In a cafe, do foods like pastries and cookies need to be covered if displayed on a counter to prevent contamination from people touching/spitting when talking/insects/etc?

Our Response:
Here's what the food standards agency says:
(The Law requires that food can be displayed above 8 oC for sale or service for only one period of up to 4 hours. Food remaining on display for up to 4 hours must be chilled to 8 oC or less and kept at that temperature until used or thrown away).
Make sure food is protected and/or covered where appropriate e.g. sneeze guards or covers.
If customers are required to serve themselves, ensure the appropriate utensils are available e.g. long handled serving spoons etc. These utensils should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. The self service activity should be regularly monitored by your staff.
SafeWorkers - 28-Jun-17 @ 2:29 PM
In a cafe, do foods like pastries and cookies need to be covered if displayed on a counter to prevent contamination from people touching/spitting when talking/insects/etc?
Lu - 27-Jun-17 @ 1:09 PM
bella - Your Question:
I work as a cook in a private day nursery. Can the nursery be fined for non supplying of antibacterial cleaning solutions that are needed to clean the kitchen with?

Our Response:
You haven't told us what you ARE supplied with, so it's difficult to comment.
SafeWorkers - 21-Jun-17 @ 2:33 PM
I work as a cook in a private day nursery. Can the nursery be fined for non supplying of antibacterial cleaning solutions that are needed to clean the kitchen with?
bella - 21-Jun-17 @ 6:24 AM
Could you please let me know whether there is any laws or rules regarding health and safety regarding putting cheese and biscuits on the bar counter in a private club. I await your reply. Many Thanks Neil Hodge
NH - 17-Jun-17 @ 10:30 AM
I own a fast food shop and have 2 children one 4 and one 1 year. Sometimes I'm stuck for childcare. Is there a law that prevents me taking them to work with me? I'd obviously keep them away from customers
Picnic - 16-Jun-17 @ 2:26 PM
I run a pub and during my cellar training I was told it's illegal to re-fill a customers glass and that I could receive an unlimited fine and or a term in prison. Is ghis true and if so could you give me a l8nk to a document that states it. Thanks.
Maba - 9-Jun-17 @ 3:56 PM
Hi, a man down the street from me has opened a food van in his garden is it legal to do that?? and also he isn't the world's cleanest man I'm concerned as to dose he have hygein certificate etc who do i ring to get this checked out Thank you for reading or replying
Kay - 2-Jun-17 @ 7:29 PM
cookie - Your Question:
I am a cook in a children's nursery and yesterday I was asked to clean up diarrhoea. I refused. Should I have cleaned it up?

Our Response:
This depends on your employment contract etc. Are you responsible for keeping specific areas (kitchem, dining areas etc) clean? There are no specific laws about this, although food hygiene standards would suggest that anyone who usually prepared food would not be expected to do this.
SafeWorkers - 30-May-17 @ 11:52 AM
I am a cook in a children's nursery and yesterday I was asked to clean up diarrhoea. I refused. Should I have cleaned it up?
cookie - 27-May-17 @ 1:11 PM
I work at a catering company driving a forklift truck outside in their pallet yard sorting and stacking emptypallets. I sometimes am required to unload small vans with pallets on them which have produce on them in sealed boxed ect ect. I wear a nose stud and have been asked to remove it is the company Correct in asking me to remove stud as I have pointed out I am not a food handler. Company has stated I am classed as a food handler and therefore should remove nose stud ???
Smithy - 26-May-17 @ 11:25 PM
Fred - Your Question:
Hi I was wounding if one person was working on there own at a time ,is it againt the law if that one person has not had the leveel 3 supervisors course and if so if did not and got found out want would happen then.or is level 2 certificate another to work alone or do you need level 3

Our Response:
No it is not against the law to work alone. Please read our guide here for more information
SafeWorkers - 18-May-17 @ 2:30 PM
Hi i was wounding if one person was working on there own at a time ,is it againt the law if that one person has not had the leveel 3 supervisors course and if so if did not and got found out want would happen then .or is level 2 certificate another to work alone or do you need level 3
Fred - 17-May-17 @ 6:11 PM
Fred - Your Question:
Hi ,i have been going to the chippy for food lately in a small village and have seen that there is only one person working there at most times.she has not got a level 3 certificate ever ,see has a level 2 but I was just wondering if that is alound.she was workign there on her own is that alound two.i allways thought by law there should be 2 staff at all times ,not one even one pregnant girl on her own. Just wondering want you thought.

Our Response:
No there are no specific laws about working alone. See our guide here
SafeWorkers - 17-May-17 @ 11:03 AM
Hi ,i have been going to the chippy for food lately in a small village and have seen that there is only one person working there at most times.she has not got a level 3 certificate ever ,see has a level 2 but I was just wondering if that is alound.she was workign there on her own is that alound two.i allways thought by law there should be 2 staff at all times ,not one even one pregnant girl on her own. Just wondering want you thought.
Fred - 15-May-17 @ 5:53 PM
Hotcold - Your Question:
Hi,I need some advice. My kids keep finding hair on their school meals, served green and pink chicken, when they complain to the school dinner ladies they ignore them and they don't give them a new meal. I just find the whole issue disgusting, the school is aware about the issue but doesn't seem to be doing anything to resolve it. I know that other parents complained. I am planning to send a letter to school as I've decided I want everything in writing. Anything I should mention to make them take it seriously or will I only cause issues to my kids?Thanks a lot in advance

Our Response:
Just give details and say you'd like information for parents on hygiene standards, food preparation and traceability. The say you are planning to contact Environmental Health about it too. Send a copy to the school governors as well as the head teacher. Even if the children are exaggerating, someone should do a check
SafeWorkers - 29-Mar-17 @ 2:39 PM
Hi, I need some advice. My kids keep finding hair on their school meals, served green and pink chicken, when they complain to the school dinner ladies they ignore them and they don't give them a new meal. I just find the whole issue disgusting, the school is aware about the issue but doesn't seem to be doing anything to resolve it. I know that other parents complained. I am planning to send a letter to school as I've decided I want everything in writing. Anything I should mention to make them take it seriously or will I only cause issues to my kids? Thanks a lot in advance
Hotcold - 28-Mar-17 @ 1:45 PM
Wannie - Your Question:
I work in a hospital, where the food for the patients is served up by our domestics. The plated food is then covered, and we take the food to the patients. I have been told that we have to wear hair nets whilst doing this. Is this a legal requirement?

Our Response:
It's not a legal requirement but it's recommended good practice. Advice from the food standards agency states:
"The law says: Every person working in a food-handling area must maintain a high level of personal cleanliness. He or she must wear suitable, clean clothing and, where necessary, protective clothing."
Good practice "Staff should keep hair tied back and wear a suitable head covering, e.g. hat or hairnet, when preparing food."
SafeWorkers - 1-Mar-17 @ 11:07 AM
I work in a hospital, where the food for the patients is served up by our domestics. The plated food is then covered, and we take the food to the patients. I have been told that we have to wear hair nets whilst doing this. Is this a legal requirement?
Wannie - 27-Feb-17 @ 10:22 AM
anna - Your Question:
I am a cook in a residential care home, can I wear my engagement ring while cooking.

Our Response:
Cehck with your local authority. General advice that we come across most commonly is that staff should not wear watches or jewellery when preparing food except wedding bands.
SafeWorkers - 8-Feb-17 @ 12:24 PM
I am a cook in a residential care home, can i wear my engagement ring while cooking.
anna - 7-Feb-17 @ 10:29 AM
Hi I was just wondering what the laws are regarding children in a kitchen of a takeaway? As I live next door to one and there young children are there until late at night making alot of noise and I was under the impression that this is possibly against various laws? Thanks
Mini - 21-Dec-16 @ 9:12 PM
Rolo - Your Question:
Hello I work in a retail store in the bakery ,I am new to the job and have been left several times on my own to operated the bread slicer and the ovens.And I nearly cut my finger off several times and burnt my hand.Is this by law right if I have not yet obtained my level 2 in food and hygine?

Our Response:
Your employer will make its decisions based on risk assessments they've carried out. If you feel the conditions you're working in are not safe, you should make a formal complaint.
SafeWorkers - 13-Dec-16 @ 12:18 PM
Hello i work in a retail store in the bakery ,I am new to the job and have been left several times on my own to operated the bread slicer and the ovens.And I nearly cut my finger off several times and burnt my hand.Is this by law right if I have not yet obtained my level 2 in food and hygine?
Rolo - 12-Dec-16 @ 11:38 AM
Can you drink in food preparation areas. Like in a kitchen/ open kitchen.
Chef45 - 6-Dec-16 @ 1:08 AM
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