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Food Safety and the Law

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 4 Dec 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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[Add a Comment]
I work in a kitchen and been ill (the flu) since Thursday night I had to go in to work on Sunday even though I was still sick. But now been told I need to go in to work tomorrow when I'm still ill. Is this allowed? Plus have a feel I maybe told to come in or loss my job as this has happened to someone else.
Tammy - 4-Dec-17 @ 9:50 PM
Detectable blue plasters...used in food preperation ..can they be see through or must they be opaque? Thanks in advance.
KevO - 20-Nov-17 @ 7:01 PM
Ham - Your Question:
Is there a law for wearing protective footwear in a works kitchen

Our Response:
There's nothing specific apart from general health and safety rules relating to the prevention ofslipping etc
SafeWorkers - 6-Nov-17 @ 4:07 PM
Is there a law for wearing protective footwear in a works kitchen
Ham - 31-Oct-17 @ 2:32 PM
Maddad - Your Question:
Hi can you help me can you tell me what the temperature of food on the hot plate to be severe to customers

Our Response:
TheFood Standards Agency advises:
Cooking food until the CORE TEMPERATURE is 75°C or above will ensure that harmful bacteria are destroyed.
However, it should be noted that lower cooking temperatures are acceptable provided that the CORE TEMPERATURE is maintained for a specified period of time as follows :
• 60°C for a minimum of 45 minutes
• 65°C for a minimum of 10 minutes
• 70°C for a minimum of 2 minutes
SafeWorkers - 25-Oct-17 @ 3:21 PM
Hi can you help me can you tell me what the temperature of food on the hotplateto be severe to customers
Maddad - 23-Oct-17 @ 1:42 PM
Patsie - Your Question:
What is the law on wearing jewellery for a Barista (no food preparation only coffee making)?

Our Response:
Most organisations will allow a single band ring and stud earrings. Your local authority or employer may have different rules. The Food Standards Agency states: Staff should not wear watches or jewellery when preparing food (except a single wedding band). The rules apply to coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, catering businesses as well as shops selling food.
SafeWorkers - 17-Oct-17 @ 11:13 AM
Shar - Your Question:
Are staff in fast food restaurants allowed to wear shorts?

Our Response:
As far as we are aware there are no specific rules about this.
SafeWorkers - 16-Oct-17 @ 11:53 AM
What is the law on wearing jewellery for a Barista (no food preparation only coffee making)?
Patsie - 16-Oct-17 @ 11:25 AM
Are staff in fast food restaurants allowed to wear shorts?
Shar - 13-Oct-17 @ 2:43 PM
Bunny - Your Question:
Hi. I have worked in a works kitchen for 4 years. This buisness has been up and running for 10 years. All the girls not the boys or any of the 4 chefs have been told that we now have to wear hairnets as well as our hats.As women we care about our appearance the thought of these hidious nets it's not the fact that we have to wear them but what about the rest? Yes sure they have shorter hair but they still do have hair.We art even cooking just the odd buttering of toast on a rotation the majority is dish wash, till and serving. We feel victimised and unhappy about starting work on Monday.

Our Response:
There is not much you can do about this, but the direction should be towards people with a specific hair length, not just girls. It's age discrimination if your employer allows boys with longer hair to work "net -free" and you would legitimately have cause for complaint.
SafeWorkers - 13-Oct-17 @ 2:24 PM
Hi.. I have worked in a works kitchen for 4 years. This buisness has been up and running for 10 years.All the girls not the boys or any of the 4 chefshave been told that we now have to wear hairnets as well as our hats .As women we care about our appearance the thought of these hidious nets it's not the fact that we have to wear them but what about the rest? Yes sure they have shorter hair but they still do have hair.We art even cooking just the odd buttering of toast on a rotation the majority is dish wash, till and serving.We feel victimised and unhappy about starting work on Monday .
Bunny - 12-Oct-17 @ 3:41 PM
Stacey - Your Question:
Hi I need some advice in regards to how my partner is being treated. He works for a company where he is the main chef and only chef in the cafe/bistro. For most of the week his is running the kitchen by himself but he is also running the cafe by himself ie taking orders, making tea and coffee and having to wash dishes and cook at the same time as he is the only one there. I want to know is this breaking the law in a health and safety way at all? He’s working from 8 in the morning until gone 5 in the afternoon without a decent break. There is a lady who comes in 2 days a week but surely he should be having more than that working with him on a daily basis? Hope you can help me because he’s trying to find a solid ground so he can leave this job for a better one where he is appreciated more.

Our Response:
There numbers of staff don't really relate to the food hygiene and safey laws really. He should raise this with his employer if he is finding it difficult to manage.
SafeWorkers - 4-Oct-17 @ 10:11 AM
Hi I need some advice in regards to how my partner is being treated. He works for a company where he is the main chef and only chef in the cafe/bistro. For most of the week his is running the kitchen by himself but he is also running the cafe by himself ie taking orders, making tea and coffee and having to wash dishes and cook at the same time as he is the only one there. I want to know is this breaking the law in a health and safety way at all? He’s working from 8 in the morning until gone 5 in the afternoon without a decent break. There is a lady who comes in 2 days a week but surely he should be having more than that working with him on a daily basis? Hope you can help me because he’s trying to find a solid ground so he can leave this job for a better one where he is appreciated more.
Stacey - 2-Oct-17 @ 6:55 PM
Sandy - Your Question:
Hi Can you tell me the correct way to calibrate a thermometer.Also is there any legislation around heating up baby food and milk.

Our Response:
The food standards agency has a good guide for checking your thermometer Here . There is no specific legislation but the government advice on warming baby milk is as follows:
When you are ready to use the feed, place the bottle in a container of warm water to heat it up. Always test the feed on the inside of your wrist to make sure if it isn’t too hot before you give it to your baby. Never use a microwave to heat chilled infant formula as there is a danger ofoverheating the formula. It can also heat the milk unevenly (causing ‘hot spots’) and could scald your baby’s mouth.
SafeWorkers - 25-Sep-17 @ 12:01 PM
Hi Can you tell me the correct way to calibrate a thermometer. Also is there any legislation around heating up baby food and milk.
Sandy - 22-Sep-17 @ 8:49 AM
what are the legalities on chefs changing areas? we are a college with catering but the students are being told they have to change in the toilets
Carrie - 18-Sep-17 @ 3:13 PM
Mr - Your Question:
Hi is a law to wear a hat in the kitchen I have a medical reason for not wearing a hat due to my head. I have been sent home for not wearing a hat nor a hair net due to the kitchen. Due to having a medical reason they have lost my note the first time. Also the air conditioning is broken and the extractor non existent for show no way to turn on? Please help to clarify this up for me. Thanks

Our Response:
The law says that:
"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."
The Food Standards Agency recommends that best practice is:
"(a)Staff should keep hair tied back and wear a suitable head covering, e.g. hat or hairnet, when preparing food.
(b) Staff should not wear watches or jewellery when preparing food (except a wedding band)
(c) Staff should not touch their face and hair, smoke, spit, sneeze, eat or chew gum when they are handling food.
SafeWorkers - 4-Sep-17 @ 2:37 PM
Hi is a law to wear a hat in the kitchen I have a medical reason for not wearing a hat due to my head. I have been sent home for not wearing a hat nor a hair net due to the kitchen. Due to having a medical reason they have lost my note the first time. Also the air conditioning isbroken and the extractor non existent for show no way to turn on? Please help to clarify this up for me. Thanks
Mr - 29-Aug-17 @ 1:39 PM
Chef Vic - Your Question:
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?

Our Response:
We're not aware of specific laws relating to this except the usual rules relating to food hygiene in preparation, handling and storage.
SafeWorkers - 22-Aug-17 @ 1:47 PM
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
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