Starting a home based catering business can be exciting and rewarding. As you will be dealing with food there are rules and regulations that you will have to adhere to.
There are two main regulations when any business deals with food, firstly there is the Regulation (EC) No.852/2004 on hygiene and foodstuffs and secondly, the Food Hygiene Regulations 2006, which replaced the Food Safety Regulations 1995. These set out basic hygiene requirements for all aspects of your business, from your premises and facilities to the personal hygiene of your staff. They also require ‘food safety management procedures’ to be put in place and to keep up to date records of these procedures.
Rules about Premises
It is important to register your premises with the environmental health service at your local authority, at least 28 days before opening. This applies to most catering businesses in the UK. They must comply with the necessary regulations, be suitable for the purpose of your business and allow you to prepare food safely.
Your premises must be clean and maintained in good repair and condition and allow you to follow good hygiene practices, including protection against contamination and, in particular, pest control.
You should have hand washing and toilet facilities for your staff, separate sinks for washing food and cleaning equipment, good ventilation, lighting and drainage.
All surfaces in the food preparation area, including floors, walls, ceilings, windows, doors, and worktops, should be smooth, hard wearing, washable and in good state of repair. In other words they should be easy to clean and disinfect.
Ideally you should have a separate area for cleaning equipment, with adequate supply of hot and cold water and storage area.
Any item of equipment that comes into contact with food, must be in good repair and condition that is easily kept clean and disinfected when necessary. Any large pieces of equipment, for example cookers and fridges, should be easily movable so that they can be regularly cleaned behind and down the sides.
It is required that all food waste and any other waste is removed from the food preparation area as soon as possible to prevent build up. There must be suitable facilities for the disposal of food waste and other rubbish.
Health and Safety
You must organize and work in such a way that protects the health and safety of your employees and any other person that might be affected by the way you work. If you have five or more employees it is required that you have a written health and safety policy which details all your health and safety arrangements.
It is advisable to get advice from your local fire authority. They will help you to carry out a fire risk assessment and help you put in measures that will protect yourself, your staff and customers.
Managing Food Safety
Food safety management is all about what you do to manage how food is produced in your business, to make sure it is safe to eat. This means putting in place ‘food safety management procedures’ and methods of recording and keeping up to date records of these procedures. Any changes in your business, these procedures must be reviewed.
It is advisable that the key person in the kitchen goes on a formal food hygiene course and get a food hygiene certificate ( even though it is not a legal requirement ), it will help with food safety management and show due diligence. This person will then be able to train any member of staff that handles food in food hygiene procedures and supervise their progress. It is recommended that any training a member of staff takes is recorded and can be shown to environmental health officers when they visit your premises.
They need to be chosen carefully, for reliability and the safety and quality of the food they provide. They can easily affect your business. It is important that the products you buy have been stored, processed and handled safely. When it is delivered you need to check the temperatures of chilled and frozen food is correct, packaging is not damaged, it is what you ordered and is handled and transported correctly. If not reject the delivery and contact supplier immediately.
You must keep written records of all the suppliers that provide you with food or any food ingredients. It must include the details of the supplier, their name, address, what they supplied, the quantity supplied and the date supplied. You should keep a record of the batch number or the ‘use by date’.
Any food supplies you purchase you need to keep the invoices or receipts so if there is a problem with the food you have sold then the environmental health officer can check back the details of the food item.
Likewise, if you supply food to another business, you will need to keep similar records, so that all food items can be tracked.
When transporting food you must prevent it from being contaminated, for example from dirt and/or bacteria. It is important that food is transported in suitable packaging or containers to protect it from contamination. Chilled or frozen food is kept at the correct temperature, and this may require the use of cool bags/boxes or refrigerated vans. Raw and ready to eat foods are kept apart. And the vehicles used are kept clean and in good repair.
Good food hygiene
Good food hygiene is essential to make sure that food you serve is safe to eat, and helps prevent food poisoning and protects the reputation of your business. When starting up your catering business it is good practice to introduce good hygiene from the start.
Most catering businesses use the 4 C's to remember good food hygiene. They are;
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