Friday, 26 April 2013

Operating your Food Business within the Law

Operating your Food Business within the Law
As the nation prepares for another round of local elections, let us identify the ways in which the law applies to Food Hygiene Standards and how you can keep your business running smoothly within them. Our Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate comes as a recommendation but the course is based upon current UK legislation, it follows that there are certain aspects that are imperative for any food business to adhere to.

The most recent law governing food production and handling in the UK is the ‘Food Hygiene (HACCP) Regulations’ act of 2006. These regulations are essentially very similar to the previous legislation passed in 1995 which basically stated that all food handlers must be supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene matters to a level that is appropriate to their job. However the 2006 act also had two important new inclusions:

1) A Food Safety Management System must be implemented and records kept demonstrating compliance with the legal regulations.

2) Businesses must identify steps critical to food safety and ensure adequate procedures are identified implemented, maintained and reviewed using HACCP principles.

There are now high potential fines and even imprisonment for hygiene and food safety offences in the UK. Food hygiene offences can receive a fine of up to £5,000 and even receive a 6 month prison sentence. More serious Food safety offenses carry a potential fine of up to £20,000 and up to 2 years in prison.

Every local authority in the UK has the power to control the sale of unfit, injurious or sub-standard food. Environmental Health Officers, (EHOs), have the power to enter any establishment to carry out an inspection or seize samples at any reasonable time.  An EHO may also impose an improvement order, close down your business, fine and prosecute you. It is illegal to prevent them from gaining access to your food premises. Failure to co-operate with an EHO is a criminal offence. Remember that the EHO is actually there to help you. Their responsibility is to ensure that the food you produce/sell/serve to the general public is safe. If an Environmental Health Officer believes there is an imminent risk to people’s health, they will issue a hygiene emergency prohibition notice and immediately close the business.

Your EHO’s role is to:

• Carry out routine inspections
• Investigate food poisoning outbreaks
• Investigate food complaints
• Ensure product safety and fitness
• Monitor conditions and hygienic operations
• Ensure compliance with legislation
• Offer advice
• Take away suspect food and have it condemned if it is unsafe.
• Take companies to court for breaking food safety laws.

You will sometimes hear the words, ‘Due Diligence’. This means in Law that you have taken all reasonable precautions, (shown due diligence) to ensure food safety. Therefore you have done everything you possibly can to make sure that the food you serve is safe. Written records are also a good way of proving ‘due diligence’. If you can prove that you have cooked the food to the correct temperature, stored the food correctly, and served the food at the right temperature within a set time limit, these can be used as a ‘due diligence defence’.

If for example you see signs of pest activity, and then you report this to your supervisor, you have shown due diligence. If your supervisor then decides to do nothing about it, any fine from the EHO, (£5000 to £20,000) will be imposed on your supervisor, not you. Also should you be ill and report this to your supervisor before starting work, you have shown due diligence. If your supervisor then tells you to come to work, then once again, any fine from the EHO will be imposed on the supervisor not you. Owners and anyone who is in charge of food premises have greater legal responsibilities than food handlers. Always remember that the Law is there to protect you and more importantly to ensure that the food you produce, sell or serve to the general public is safe.

Six Food Safety Laws
• Keep yourselves & your workplace clean, and wear suitable, clean protective clothing
• Store, prepare and display food at safe temperatures
• Do everything possible to protect food from contamination
• Inform your employer if they have symptoms of a food-borne illness
• Don’t do anything that would expose food to contamination.
• Don’t sell food with an expired date mark or food unfit for human consumption

Six Food Business Safety Laws

• Premises must be registered with the local enforcement authority
• Premises must be designed, equipped and operated in ways which prevent contamination and anything that could lead to illness or injury
• Your business must ensure adequate washing facilities and arrangements for personal hygiene
• Ensure all staff are trained and supervised to work hygienically
• Food hazards must be assessed and action taken to stop or reduce risks to food safety (hazard analysis)
• Every person that deals with food has a legal responsibility to safeguard food so that it does not cause illness or harm.

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