Food Hygiene & The Law

The legislation for companies who prepare and sell food to the general public is very comprehensive to cover all eventualities and this article can only really skim the surface of all of the things you’ll have to consider. It’s important that you only view the information here as a general guide as you’ll need to know the specific rules and regulations which would enable your business to comply with the legislation. More comprehensive details and advice about this can be found on the Foods Standards Agency website.

Basic Hygiene Requirements

Premises used for the preparation of food must be kept clean and well maintained. Whether it’s the layout, design, size or construction of the premises, it must be fit to allow for proper maintenance and cleaning and give all staff enough working space so that they can conduct their duties in a hygienic manner. Good hygienic practices need to be concerned with avoiding the build up of dirt, protection against contamination, adequate ventilation and pest control. The handling and storage of food is also a key factor that all food inspectors will check thoroughly when they make their regular visits to your premises to ensure that you are in full compliance with the law.

The Law and How You Need to Comply

From January 1, 1996, a new set of food hygiene regulations came into force. The key changes to the legislation previously are contained in Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 to do with the hygiene of foodstuffs along with the Food Hygiene (England) (No.2) Regulations 2005 and the equivalent legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These replaced the Food Safety (Temperature Control) Regulations 1995 and the Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995.

Together, the latest legislation sets out all of your responsibilities with regards to the hygiene of the premises as well as your own staff’s personal hygiene responsibilities. One of the main changes to the previous legislation is the way your company deals with hazard control. This is now based on a system called HACCP which stands for ‘Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) and has been introduced so that not only do you need to know what to do in order to be able to manufacture or sell food which is safe for public consumption, you now also have to SHOW that you know this by keeping up to date written records which demonstrate to inspectors that you are following the principles of HACCP and can illustrate this when you are inspected.

The Principles of HACCP

These require you to carry out a thorough review of your business and identify any potential ‘hazards’ and things that could go wrong (now referred to as ‘critical control points’.) Once they have been identified, you need to focus on these specific areas in particular and implement procedures and practices that will prevent or, at least, reduce the possibilities of things going wrong in these key areas and to decide what action you would take if things do go awry.

Identifying Potential Hazards

‘Hazards’ can be related to many different areas when it comes to food manufacture and preparation but could be microbiological in nature – e.g. where bacteria could get into food, e.g. if it is has not been stored correctly. It could be chemicals getting into food, such as products used for cleaning or it could be physical in nature e.g. foreign bodies such as insects or parts of packaging or broken glass getting into food. It’s also important to remember that it may not necessarily be your direct fault that such hazards might occur. It could possibly be as a result of negligence on the part of suppliers to your business but you, as the food manufacturer or catering establishment are responsible for managing these hazards from taking delivery right up to the point of service.

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