Food Businesses And The Law

Maintain sufficient Food Hygiene Standards is a must for any food business which is why there are many Food Hygiene Courses based upon current UK legislation.

Legislation surrounding food production and handling in the UK is always changing and evolving which means keeping up to date is really important. Most recently, in 2006, the government introduced the 'Food Hygiene Regulations Act' (HACCP) which more or less just extended the legislation passed in 1995. The earlier legislation required all food handlers to be supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene matters to a level appropriate to their job, while the 2006 act represented this as well as two additional and 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.

Punishments for food safety offences

Food business owners who do not complain with food hygiene legislation can receive large fines or even prison sentences. Fines can be as much as £ 5,000 and prison sentences 6 months. In more serious cases, for more extreme food safety offs, fines could be as much as £ 20,000 and perpetrators could face up to 2 years in prison.

Every local authority in the UK has the power to control the sale of unfit, unfair 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 pose an improvement order, close down your business, fine you or you. It is illegal to prevent them from gaining access to your food promises. Failure to co-operate with an EHO is a criminal offense. 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. Before you have done everything you can probably 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 defense'.

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 anything 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 promises 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 yourself & 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
  • Do not do anything that would expose food to contamination
  • Do not 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.