Q.I work at a newsagents in a train station. Up until recently they have bought in pre-packed sandwiches for public sale. But they have now started to make their own instead. The manager has handed out a booklet about an introduction to food hygiene, with a questionnaire to complete at the end.
As I understood the law, each person who will be making the sandwiches needs to have a food hygiene certificate. However, my manager says that I don’t need one. This is causing tension at work as I don’t want to make sandwiches until I’m sure that I’m covered legally. Who’s right?
(N.B, 19 March 2021)
A.People die every year in the UK from food poisoning or bacteria in food so you would expect that anyone preparing food such as sandwiches must hold a qualification.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. However, any sensible employer will ensure that staff handling food are properly trained. It is a good idea for them to hold at least a minimum food safety qualification.
It may be that because you are only preparing sandwiches, your employer does not realise the dangers involved. Many people think that it is only when serving hot food that careful food handling procedures need to be followed.
Even Sandwiches Pose a Risk
Some potentially fatal bacteria such as listeria can be found even in salads and dairy products. This includes seafood, and certain cheeses and cress are also well-known culprits. It is very important that correct safety procedures are followed.
Under new food legislation introduced in 2006, there are strict rules which apply to businesses where food is prepared or handled. Even a small outlet must show, in writing, what it does to ensure that its food is safe to eat.
A person preparing food is not required to hold any type of food hygeiene certificate. However, a suitably trained person needs to provide supervision or training to ensure safety.
Responsibility for Food Safety Training
It is a manager’s responsibility to make sure that all food handlers are either trained or supervised. Most good employers fulfil this requirement by arranging for staff to take a suitably accredited course.
They could also give you training ‘on the job’ or ensure that they employ people who already have food training.
Even a retail business wanting to sell food should be able to demonstrate due diligence in food safety. They do this by setting up and documenting strict food hygiene procedures. This system depends on the size of the business, so a small business will only need a very simple system. Hower, the person in charge of the ‘food safety management system’ MUST have sufficient training.
You need to tell your employer that you don’t feel confident carrying out this work without adequate training or supervision.
You don’t say how or where you prepare the sandwiches. For example, do you follow strict procedures about hand-washing, wearing special clothing or an apron. Rules such as removing jewellery and ensuring hair is tied back and controlled should also be in place.
Have you been given guidance about wounds, diseases or illnesses? For example, If you have diarrhoea or vomiting you should not handle food for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have gone.
There are also many rules regarding the premises where the food is being prepared. This includes ease-of-cleaning, provision of suitable workspace and wash basins etc. There should also have been a visit from the Environmental Health Officer to inspect your premises.
The Environmental Health Department of your local authority will always be able to provide advice and guidance. They can answer specific queries relating to food safety. You can find out more about handling food safely from the Food Standards Agency website.