Starting and running any form of food business has its challenges. But of all the things that you need to concern yourself about, the one concern that should be on top of your list when you start a food business is hygiene. This should never, never be overlooked, because doing so will lead to serious health, business, and legal repercussions for you and your business.
In the year 2000, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) was established by an Act of Parliament. The FSA is an independent department of the government that protects the health of the public and the interests of the consumers on all food items. In conjunction with this agency, The General Food Regulations 2004 and the General Food Law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 are legislations that were put in place for food safety; both were based on the Food Safety Act of 1990.
Laws are there for compliance, and as a food business owner, you should do everything you can to make sure you know the law and comply with it. Of course, reading these laws line by line might be time consuming, so just to start you off, here’s a quick summary of the most important parts:
1. Hand washing. Yes, complying with these standards starts with something as simple as washing your hands (1) before you handle food and (2) several times during the cooking process, especially when you handle raw meat. Cross contamination is the most common method through which food borne illnesses spread, and unwashed hands are the most common vehicles for passing harmful organisms around.
2. Food washing. All the food, especially fruits and vegetables, must also be washed properly before they are cooked or served. However, because some foods spoil faster once they have been washed, you should wash them only right before they are to be used. Do not use soap for washing, as this could be absorbed by the food and be toxic to your customers. Instead, use cold water in washing, and for hard produce such as potatoes, use a clean vegetable brush to scrub its skin.
3. Site inspection. Regular inspections of the kitchen and all food-related areas such as freezers should be made. These inspections should be done as often as possible, and things that can be improved on should immediately be taken note of and corrected. Additionally, food areas should be cleaned whenever possible. Local authorities can sometimes do inspections themselves without notice, so you should always be prepared.
4. Transparency. Your customers should know what they are buying. For instance, they should know exactly what is in your sausages. The “nature or substance or quality demanded by the purchaser” should be what is given to the purchaser. Do not serve pork sausages if the order was for beef.
5. Food processing. Take all efforts to make sure that the food you serve is not made dangerous to your customers’ health because of a substance or ingredient you added or removed from the food, or because of any processing methods that you subjected the food to. For instance, if a certain type of sweetener has been proven to affect people’s health adversely, that sweetener should not be used, even if it is in your commercial interest to do so.
6. Traceability. Where did your food products come from? You should know, and you should keep records of all places from which you got your food, as well as all places to which you delivered your food. From time to time, authorities shall be asking for these records, and it is important that you be able to provide them.
Food hygiene legislation is strict, but it is that way for a reason. Keep your commercial premises clean and following these laws to ensure your customers won’t get sick and your business will not, as a result, be closed down. It is for everyone’s good – but surely, you already knew that.