Understanding the Basics of Food Safety

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Food safety is a general term for the food industry that refers to things like hygiene, allergies and inspections, and if you/your business handles food in any capacity (whether you cook, serve, store, deliver etc.) then you must be aware of, and compliant with, food safety laws in the UK.

The Food Safety Act 1990 is one such law that provides a framework for all food legislation in the UK and it states that food intended for human consumption must be treated in a controlled and managed way.

To find out more about your responsibilities and how Brexit may affect food safety in the UK, have a read through our previous food safety blog here.

Much of our current laws when it comes to food safety are governed by EU standards and practices, so Brexit will have an impact on that – we just can’t say exactly how until a deal has been agreed.

Local Authority Environmental Health Officers are responsible for enforcing these standards in their local food factories and food retail premises, but when there is a complaint or claim made against a food-related establishment, the Food Standards Agency will step in.

Who are the Food Standards Agency and what is the Food Standards Act?

The Food Standards Act 1999 provides the Food Standards Agency with functions and powers; it sets out their main goal which is to protect public health in relation to food.

When a person or organisation is not abiding by the standards set out in the act, the Food Standards Agency can step in at any stage in the food production and supply chain.

The FSA are responsible for giving businesses a food hygiene rating following an inspection so if your business is not meeting the standards then you could face a low rating or, even, business closure.

What are the food hygiene requirements for UK businesses?

The four most important areas to consider with food hygiene are: cleaning, cooking, chilling and cross-contamination.

Cleaning – You need to ensure that food areas and equipment are cleaned effectively as you work, especially if handling raw meats

Cooking – Undercooked food can cause food poisoning, so you must make sure that all food is cooked thoroughly before being served

Chilling – Ensure that foods are chilled, when required, to stop harmful bacteria from growing

Cross-contamination – Avoid spreading bacteria amongst different foods (i.e. raw meats and cooked foods) by keeping them separate

In many cases, if you are considerate of each of these areas and have processes in place to manage and oversee them then you are fulfilling much of your duty as a business owner within the food industry.

You do also need to consider personal hygiene such as washing your hands and keeping long hair tied up, as well as the safe storage and transportation of food.

HACCP Food Plan

As part of your food hygiene management, you usually must write a food plan based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point principles.

The HACCP plan keeps your food safe from biological, chemical and physical food safety hazards.

To make a plan you must:

How to make sure you are always compliant with food safety laws

Food safety laws have been consistent in the UK for the last few years (though Brexit may change that soon) but there are always things you can do to improve your food safety management and ensure that all employers are regularly and appropriately trained.

It is important, as with any legislation, to stay informed and keep up to date so that you are aware of any changes being made that may affect you.

If you’re unsure as whether you are fully compliant with current food safety laws, then the best thing you can do is conduct a full audit of the current systems you have in place. If you do not feel confident doing this yourself, then outsourcing the support of an experienced food safety consultant is the best option.

They will look at the level of training you and your workers have, the PPE that is being used, and the overall food safety management system that you have in place. They will then put together a report of their findings which will highlight any areas that need improvement and suggest ways in which to do so.

If you require further support with food safety then we can provide you with a fully qualified Health and Safety Consultant who can assist with food safety management, audits, training and advice.
Call us today on 0845 2626 260 for more information and a complimentary quote for this service

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