Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.
Food hygiene regulations apply to any business that handles food – this applies to drink as well. The aim of these regulations is to ensure that anything consumable is safe and of a high quality for customers.
Poor restaurant health and safety can lead to illnesses, loss of customers, and ultimately can lead to a business being shut down – so investing in the correct restaurant health and safety training can be very useful.
Our guide will explain all you need to know when it comes to health and safety in catering.
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Health and safety requirements in the UK
Food hygiene regulations in England, Scotland and Wales
The Food Standards Agency explains that for England, Wales and Scotland, the Food Safety Act 1990 requires:
- Businesses to not include anything in food, remove anything from food or treat food in any way which means it would be damaging to the person who consumes it.
- The food that businesses serve or sell is of the nature, substance or quality the consumers expect.
- The food is advertised and labelled correctly and not in a way that is false or misleading.
Food hygiene regulations for Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has what’s known as the Food Safety Order 1991 in place. The same requirements are expected as listed above for Britain.
There are no law or food hygiene regulations banning dogs being allowed in premises where food is served in the UK. However, they must not enter any area where food is being handled, kept or prepared. So, dining areas are accepted, but kitchens are a no-go.
What penalties can be faced?
In England and Wales: The Food Safety Act guide states: ‘For offences in England and Wales (other than obstruction and related offences), Crown courts may send offenders to prison for up to two years and/or impose unlimited fines.’
In Scotland: ‘the Sheriff court has a maximum sentence of 12 months and there is a statutory maximum fine of £10,000.’
In NI: ‘The courts decide the level of penalties depending on the circumstances of each case, but the Order sets the maximum penalties available to the courts.’
Health and safety training
When it comes to handling food, there are four main things to remember, known as the 4 Cs:
The 4 Cs can be applied to help prevent what the Food Standards Agency describes as ‘the most common food safety problems’.
In the UK, food handlers are not legally required to hold a food hygiene certificate in order to prepare or sell food. However, many businesses may want their staff to have adequate training to ensure the highest safety standards can be met.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) offers a range of free online courses to help you, and any staff you have, understand the different food hygiene regulations. Courses include:
- Allergen training
- Labelling training
- Root cause analysis training
- Traceability training
- Vacuum packing training.
Handling food incorrectly, such as nuts, can have serious consequences if someone with a nut allergy comes into contact with contaminated food. That’s why these training resources are vital.
What to expect from safety inspections
If you’re running a cafe, restaurant or food truck, local authorities are responsible for carrying out checks to ensure the premise is safe and legal to be handling food and complying with food law.
The FSA explains that authorities will check:
- Your premises
- How you work
- Your food safety management system
- The types of food you make and prepare
How often an inspection is carried out depends on your establishment and the previous record. Some can be every six months, others may be less often.
While they do have the authority to close down a business that isn’t complying, inspectors can also offer advice and guidance of food hygiene.
How you prepare for your inspection should be exactly how you prepare for the day-to-day running of your business.
- Areas should be cleaned thoroughly
- Food should be stored correctly
- Ensure expiry dates are followed
- Are allergens kept separate? Square for Restaurants can be used to help you track allergies efficiently and communicates back to the kitchen without mistakes using KDS.
- Have items been labelled clearly and correctly?
- Do you have different chopping boards for different foods e.g., a separate board for poultry?
- Does your first aid box have blue plasters?
Inspectors check basic hygiene protocols that should be followed regardless of whether there is an inspection or not. By getting into a routine of regularly deep cleaning and storing correctly, for example, you will set yourself up in good stead ready for when an inspection is due.
Extra COVID-19 regulations
While it has been said that COVID-19 is unlikely to be transmitted by food, there are steps that you should follow to encourage good hygiene practice.
Government guidance states that hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds:
- Before and after handling food
- Before handling clean cutlery, glasses, or other items that will used by customers
- After handling dirty or used items, such as collecting used dishes from tables
- After handling money
- After touching high-contact surfaces, such as light switches or door handles
- When moving between different areas of the workplace
- After being in a public place, such as public transport
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Coughs and sneezes should be caught in a tissue or the crook of your elbow.
It’s also a good idea for businesses to invest in either disposable menus, or a QR code which can be scanned by a customer’s phone for them to access the menu online.
This will remove a high-contact surface and reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 at your establishment.
Restaurants should also consider a take-out option if social distancing measures are affecting capacity. Using Square’s Order Management Software, you can take orders on your website and offer click and collect or in-house delivery.
It’s important to practise good restaurant health and safety from the start of your business and carry out refresher training courses regularly to ensure hygiene is of the best standard. It can help your business thrive. If two coffee shops open in the same area where one has a five-star hygiene rating and the other has a three-star rating, customers are sure to choose the one with the highest.