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This is why businesses, especially those involved in food preparation, should be aware food safety and execute management systems, such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). Also clearly communicate allergen information to further ensure the safety of consumers.
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) is a way of managing food safety hazards. Within a business all food hygiene and safety management procedures should be based on HACCP principles. Whilst there is now law about what these procedures must be, if they do not address the seven principles, and your business commits an offense relating to the Food Safety Act, your business could be hit with a hefty fine, or even imprisonment.
 
The seven principles of HACCP are to:
  • 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

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:

  • Cleaning
  • Cross-contamination
  • Cooking
  • Chilling

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.

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.

To protect those that suffer from food allergies, allergen information has to be made available when food is provided in a commercial environment, regardless of whether the food is pre-packed, non-packed, on a plate, in a takeaway carton, cooked or uncooked.

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:

  • celery
  • cereals containing gluten
  • crustaceans
  • eggs
  • fish
  • lupins
  • milk
  • molluscs
  • mustard
  • peanuts
  • sesame seeds
  • soy beans
  • sulphur dioxide & sulphites (when more than 10 ppm)
  • tree nuts.
For more guidance on these regulations visit our legislation page.

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.


Further information

The problems for consumers mostly arise from: 

  • bacteria – the five major/most common types being salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli O157, listeria monocytogenes and clostridium perfringens.
  • chemical, pesticide or metal contamination;
  • intolerance or allergies;
  • foreign bodies;
  • unsuitable, damaged or defective packaging (which, in some cases, causes injuries due to sharp edges (for example) rather than, or as well as, poisoning); and
  • a failure to provide appropriate information (e.g. via labelling or menu annotations).

Generally, food poisoning is a result of poor management, hygiene, training and supervision; More specifically, it arises from inadequate assessment and/or enforcement of specific risk control measures, particularly in relation to:

  • use of food beyond 'use by' dates;
  • preparation too far in advance of use;
  • incorrect storage temperatures;
  • poor storage and handling arrangements;
  • inadequate cooking of food;
  • a lack of pest and vermin control;
  • poor standards of hygiene;
  • food handling arrangements that result in cross contamination;
  • insufficient monitoring, control and surveillance of personal health;
  • inappropriate or non-existent welfare facilities; and
  • a deficient maintenance and cleaning regime.

 

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 safetyFoods 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.

Find information on regulations that you and your business may need to comply with.
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Frequently asked questions
Find answers to some common queries about health and safety issues and related legislation.
Either as part of ensuring food safety and hygiene or to control other risks in associated environments, these topic pages provide additional helpful information: