The key to a 5-star food hygiene rating is properly implementing a food hygiene system that prioritizes the welfare of your customers.
Basic food hygiene regulations to follow
Good food hygiene protects your business and consumers from food safety issues. Although food hygiene regulations are ...
- Good food hygiene protects your business and consumers from food safety issues.
- Although food hygiene regulations are not mandatory, your business must be able to show a certain level of competence in this area and prove that your team is aware of proper food hygiene practices.
- Unhygienic foods are produced from food manufacturing operations that do not observe proper food hygiene practices and lead to health issues.
To maintain a good relationship between food business operators and customers, the safety of all involved parties must be well maintained. One of the most evident ways to do this is to follow food hygiene regulations. Good record and compliance to certification bodies show great commitment by food manufacturers in keeping the welfare and safety of consumers.
In the UK, it has been reported that at least 1 million cases of foodborne illnesses occur in 2015 and have ballooned in size to 2.4 million by 2020. The Food Safety Agency of the UK has narrowed down the reasons for the occurrence of foodborne illnesses to microbiological criteria of foods. The main microbial pathogens include the microorganisms Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, Listeria, Clostridium sp., and Campylobacter. These pathogenic microorganisms are commonly the result of bad food hygiene practices and unclean food sources.
If food hygiene is not prioritized, pathogens from contamination can cause outbreaks and affect a great number of consumers. The key to preventing these foodborne illnesses from occurring is to apply basic food hygiene regulations and comply with food hygiene laws and food safety standards. In this article, we will walk you through some of the most important food hygiene regulations known in the UK to help your food business.
Food hygiene regulations in the UK setting
Despite the significant changes in the political atmosphere of the UK, the government has ensured that it will retain the provisions of food safety regulations that were previously in place. The main presiding food safety agency in the UK is the Food Standards Agency (FSA) which is an independent government branch aimed at protecting the health of consumers from food problems.
In the country, several provisions have been established and food hygiene (amendment) regulations have been made to previously existing regulations. An example is the Food Hygiene Regulations 2006 of the UK which established the hygiene requirements of the government for any food business activity in terms of producing safe foods.
This food safety legislation puts the responsibility of ensuring a safe food production process through hygienic practices to food business owners. The food safety law requires food establishments to have a food safety management plan based on the HACCP principles. Under these directives, food businesses are required to establish controls and critical limits for potential risks to health and monitoring procedures.
Under the food hygiene regulation, the following directives include, but are not limited to:
- Facilities, equipment, and other food contact materials which will come in direct contact with food must be kept clean and well-maintained
- Proper design of food premises that are easy to clean
- Well-managed waste disposal facilities and adequate drainage for liquid waste
- Clean restrooms and other hygiene facilities for staff (e.g. hot and cold running water for washing)
- Working pest control measures and management programme
- Cleaning schedules (download our free monitoring forms templates for schedules here)
- Proper protective gears for staff
- Proper handling, storage and transport systems for control of food hazards
- Food safety procedures must be based on HACCP principles while applying good hygiene practices
The food hygiene regulations of the UK are subdivided into different sections. Despite this, all regulations use the same principle of mandating all food businesses to carry out their operations in the most hygienic way possible. Under the food hygiene Regulation [EC] No. 852/2004, food businesses are required to register and seek the approval of the FSA to operate.
Other food hygiene regulations in the UK include:
- Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006
- Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013
- The General Food Regulations 2004 Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006
- The Food Hygiene (Scotland) Regulations 2006
Penalties to food hygiene regulation breaches
Non-compliance to food regulations has many repercussions in addition to the risk of having a foodborne illness outbreak at hand. These food hygiene regulations are applicable to supermarkets, restaurants, corner shops, and other food businesses. In the UK, the sentencing council with the Food Standards Agency and the Meat Standards Agency are responsible for enforcing food hygiene laws and regulations, releasing definitive guidelines, and prosecuting those who do not follow them.
Non-compliance to food hygiene laws can merit the following responses from involved relevant authorities:
- Mandatory product recall
- Investigation and interrogation regarding breaches in food hygiene
- A potential temporary pause in operations
- In case proven guilty, the food business will be prosecuted in Criminal Courts and be required to pay financial penalties or, in extreme cases, imprisonment.
- Negative publicity due to food safety issues and trials related to prosecution. This penalty can cause a significant decrease in profits and lead to a loss of customer confidence.
- Related authorities can serve notice of legal requirements needed to be fulfilled and any necessary adjustment to revoke the sentence of non-compliance. Failure to comply with the said notice will also result in additional penalties and a separate fine.
The degrees of seriousness of financial penalties and other sanctions that are given to a violating food business depends on the offence category that has taken place. The Criminal Courts and the FSA use the liability and harm factors listed below for the decision-making process and may act as guidance on fines:
Very high culpability
Involves blatant, intentional breach of food safety and hygiene laws. It includes deliberate concealment of the offence which is a big aggravating factor for the council. This factor describes when the offender fully knew the case of contamination of food products and chose to hide it and continue production.
To this degree, the offending party knew the repercussions of their action but chose to continue the offence that resulted in food safety issues.
This degree of offence is given when proven that if the person in charge practiced reasonable care, the offence may not have taken place.
In the event that the offender is proven to have a significantly small fault such as when efforts to contain and address the risk were made, the offence category may be set to low. In addition, if the offence took place because of the lack of warning indicating a risk of a similar degree may be applied.
In some cases such as when the offending party is proven to have committed the breach to gain financial benefits or avoidance of cost, the level of culpability is expected to be higher.
This list contains the level of harm caused and the risk likelihood to occur with the potential effects they can cause.
Serious negative effects to public health of the current offence include an outbreak; acute and/ or chronic conditions.
This category includes adverse effects not mentioned under the highest category as well as the mere risk of negative effects when the actual harm affected vulnerable groups. This category also includes offences that relate to the inability of authorities to trace the product for investigation due to an inadequate food safety programme.
This category encompasses medium or low risk of hazards on human health. It also includes any misleading information which can lead to little or no negative effects.
Basic food hygiene rules
At this point, you probably know by now how important it is to follow food hygiene regulations. Food hygiene rules do not have to be very technical. They can be easily applied in your every day working and living conditions. It is important to acquaint your whole food production process team with such practices to maintain the safety of your food items.
In addition, when aiming to achieve the correct implementation of a comprehensive Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety programme, food hygiene rules are required and are actually considered as part of HACCP's basic principles.
Providing consistently hygienic food allows your business to continuously operate in the food industry. Proper management of food hygiene also helps you manage your resources and food waste, thereby increasing business efficiency at fewer costs.
Some common food hygiene rules include:
This principle involves building regular cleaning activities to ensure that all working food premises are free from potential food safety hazards. A part of this principle is monitoring whether cleaning schedules are followed or not. It also includes sanitizing equipment that will be in direct contact with food prior to use. This rule also includes adequate supply for cleaning and sanitizing.
A part of food hygiene regulations is serving safe food. To achieve this, your operations must follow food hygiene standards in terms of cooking procedures to ensure that hazards are eliminated or controlled and will not cause any public harm. Any cooking procedure or food preparation can be considered a critical control point.
This food hygiene rule is concerned with properly storing your food ingredients as well as high-risk food items at a lower temperature. This food production process prevents microbial pathogens from multiplying beyond acceptable guideline levels.
- Avoiding cross-contamination
Cross-contamination during food preparation in food operations is one of the biggest reasons for foodborne illness outbreaks. This event pertains to the transfer of pathogenic microorganisms or any type of hazard between all the food premises in the food chain. Cross-contamination is prevented through proper sanitation and segregating cooked foods from raw materials and unclean groups during food preparation.
In order for your team to avoid cross-contamination, apply food hygiene measures, and operate in clean conditions during food preparation, they have to know the meaning of these things. Your team must be adequately acquainted with them through sets of training and seminars on food hygiene matters.
- Personal hygiene
Included in most food hygiene regulations is orienting your team on how to maintain good hygiene of food handlers which involves keeping the body clean. Personal hygiene regulation also includes reporting health status, wearing protective clothing, food hygiene rating, and proper grooming. Infected wounds, skin infections, and present sickness can contaminate and affect the hygiene of foodstuffs.
- Safe water supply
A huge percent of the risk of food contamination comes from unsafe water resources. Water is a vital ingredient and tool in all types of food businesses. An establishment is required to ensure that the water they are using is safe.
Poor food hygiene practices result in the primary production of unhygienic food or unsafe food. These products may contain hazards as a result of any improper food production process or poor handling practices and potentially cause a future breach of food laws. Unhygienic foods are the primary cause of the risk of contamination causing foodborne illnesses in consumers and negatively affecting your business.
The release of unhygienic food to the market can result in several different possibilities including food poisoning, recall, lawsuits, and economic impact on your business. These food products are produced because of gaps in food hygiene practices such as inadequate preoperational cleaning and sanitation
Food hygiene certificate
In the UK, there is no absolute rule that requires food handlers to secure a food hygiene certificate. Although, this document is proof of competency when it comes to food safety and hygiene knowledge. A certificate would show that a food handler knows the required minimum standards for food handling. These certificates can be obtained by undergoing an evaluation process to be conducted by an accredited body. Food hygiene training and examinations must be fulfilled to get a certificate of completion.
The contents and extensiveness of training courses depend on the level of the food hygiene certification training. Find out more about food hygiene certificates here.
Monitoring food hygiene in the food business operations
Managing a business while trying to monitor and maintain good food hygiene practices can be hard at times. One thing that will lessen the burden is if you have a solid HACCP food safety management system that will help you with a detailed analysis of hazards and keep them at acceptable levels.
Food hygiene and safety are part of the basic principles of a HACCP plan. Once your food safety management system is in place and has been verified to fit your operations and is working perfectly, your burden is lessened.
This means that you have to make your HACCP plan the best fit for your business. This is what we do best at FoodDocs. Our built-in HACCP software can help you build your own HACCP plan and make a food safety management system that will effectively safeguard you from any food safety offence. Our HACCP plan building process will only take 1 hour and can be customized to fit your operations.
Another good thing about our system is that we can provide you with other pertinent documents that you will be needing for a HACCP plan. We offer you fully customizable, downloadable, and free monitoring form templates. You can easily monitor your operations and maintain food hygiene at all times. Our software can even notify you regarding deadlines for any food hygiene training, legal requirement, or any breaches in your management system. Additionally, we can help you control food hygiene breaches with our traceability system.
Does FoodDocs give out food hygiene certificates?
Food agencies such as the FSA in UK or FDA in the USA are responsible for releasing food hygiene certificates to qualified food businesses. We do not provide food hygiene certificates at FoodDocs. What we can offer you is our built-in HACCP plan builder and food safety management to help you fulfill the requirements set out by these food agencies.