In the UK, millions of people suffer from foodborne illness, mainly caused by consuming contaminated (or, more rarely, toxic) food or water each year. The vast majority of cases result from eating food prepared, cooked and/or packaged outside the home in a commercial environment like a convenience store, restaurant, café, takeaway or fast food outlet.
What is HACCP?
- Conduct a hazard analysis
- Identify the Critical Control Points (CCPs) - the steps where control is essential
- Establish critical limits for CCPs
- Monitor the CCPs
- Take corrective actions if a CCP is not under control
- Verify the above is working effectively
- Keep records to demonstrate food is being produced safely
Key actions to maintain food safety and hygiene standards
Establish a food safety management system
If your business is food-related, you need to first establish a food safety system, based on the HACCP principles. This system should focus on identifying the critical points in a process where food safety problems or hazards could arise so that preventive measures can be put in place.
Other food safety practices should be considered and merged into the system, such as the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) “Five P’s” and the “Four Cs” approach developed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
By practicing the “Four Cs” of food hygiene, those working with food can avoid food poisoning and other illnesses. This approach covers key topics such as:
GMP regulations are mandated by the manufacturers’ respective national government, to regulate the production, verification, and validation of manufactured products to ensure that they are safe for market distribution. These regulations state:
- People - all employees are expected to strictly adhere to manufacturing processes and regulations. This means employers must provide up-to-date training for all employees to understand their roles and responsibilities.
- Products - all products must undergo constant testing, comparison, and quality assurance before being distributed to customers.
- Procedures - the creation of guidelines for undertaking a critical process is required to achieve a consistent result, which must be followed by all employees.
- Premises - any premises, and the contents within them, should champion cleanliness at all times to avoid cross-contamination, accidents, or even fatalities.
Make sure food handlers are appropriately trained
The owner of the business is responsible for ensuring the relevant training is undertaken by employees across the business.
Individuals responsible for the HACCP-based procedures must have enough relevant knowledge and understanding to ensure the procedures are implemented effectively.
Food handlers must be suitably instructed and/or trained in food hygiene so that they’re able to handle food safely. There is no legal requirement that employees need to attend a formal training course or have a qualification, instead, the skills may be obtained through other ways, such as on-the-job training, self-study or relevant prior experience.
There are nationally accredited courses for qualifications in food safety, for example courses by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH). But it should be noted that the length of courses may vary between providers, and assistance is usually available for candidates whose first language isn’t English.
Level 1 - Half-day course for employees handling low-risk or wrapped food.
Level 2 - One day course for employees in a catering, manufacturing or retail settings where food is prepared, cooked and handled.
Level 3 - Three day course for managers, supervisors and senior hygeine personnel who develop or monitor HACCP-based procedures.
Level 4 - Five day course for business owners, managers, supervisors and senior hygeine personnel who are responsible for compliance with relevant legislation.
Provide allergen information
Businesses which provide food must comply with the Food Information Regulations (FIR) 2014 and appropriately declare on products if they contain the following 14 allergens:
- cereals containing gluten
- sesame seeds
- soy beans
- sulphur dioxide & sulphites (when more than 10 ppm)
- tree nuts.
Details of specified allergens have to be listed clearly in an obvious place. If allergen information isn’t provided upfront (e.g. on packaging, a menu or on-shelf labelling), then customers will need to be signposted to where it can be found (e.g. by speaking to serving staff or on a website).
Food producers have to ensure that the ingredient label matches with what is in the food. Regular assessments of the allergen status of ingredients from suppliers is required to avoid contamination in food assembly.
If a products can’t guarantee food allergens contamination during the food production, labels must include phrases like "may contain" or "not suitable for those with ‘x’ allergy" on the label.
Most food businesses need to register all of their premises (including, as applicable, homes, vans and stalls) with their local authority at least 28 days before they start trading or food operations.
Premises where food that comes from animals (i.e. meat, eggs, dairy and fish products) is made, prepared or handled but not sold directly to consumers need to be approved by the local authority.
Visit GOV.UK/food-business-registration for more information
A 'use by' date relates to food safety. Foods can be cooked, frozen and eaten until that date, but not after, even if it has been stored correctly.
A 'best before' date (or 'best before end' date) refers to food quality. Foods will be safe to eat after the date but may not be at its best and the flavour or texture may be affected.