Food Safety Regulations and Law – new and existing food businesses
We will cover;
- Legal regulations for food businesses
- Structural requirements and best practice
- Equipment requirements and best practice
All food businesses must are subject to the provision of many legal requirements designed to protect the public from hazards. Building structure and suitability of equipment, staff training and supervision, are specified and also management of an effective food safety programme. Here we will cover the main areas of structure businesses need to know to comply with the law. There are a number of relevant laws but we will explain how to comply with the regulations rather than quoting the exact legislation. The original legislation is contained within the laws and regulations stated below and have been used as the source of the guidance.
The information for this report is extracted from the Food Safety Act 1990, The Food Safety Act 1990 – a guide for food businesses, Food Law – Code of Practice (Flcop), Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations 2013, Food Standards Act 1999, The General Food Law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 and 852/2004, Workplace Regulations 1992, Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Requirements for food rooms – design and layout
Premises design & construction is vitally important to enable the safe production of food. When planning any new building or refurbishment work, careful consideration should be given to hygiene.
Complying with the law when designing and constructing will involve;
- Making sure adequate space and facilities are available for the safe food production
- Cross contamination measures are planned for including refrigeration
- Adequate access for effective cleaning is considered including avoiding creating difficult to clean areas
- Not creating spaces around & under work surfaces which could accumulate dirt
- Maintenance access is considered (canopy, filters etc)
- Sufficient ventilation to reduce condensation
- Adequate ventilation for food storage rooms so temperature is maintained below 25 celsius.
- Adequate lighting for safe food handing, effective cleaning and monitoring and checking for pest activity.
- Premises are designed & constructed to prevent pests
- Chemicals and non food items are stored separately
- Materials must be used in construction which allow effective cleaning and disinfection
- Adequate drainage provided
- Floors should be tiled, stainless steel, or resin or vinyl & appropriate for use
- Walls should be ceramic tiles, stainless steel, PVC, glass reinforced plastic or resin & should be cleanable & durable.
- Ceilings if not suspended, should be smooth & washable with access points.
- Windows should have screens if opening into a food room
- Doors, surfaces, handles & push plates must be of suitable materials & capable of disinfection.
- Surfaces that come into contact with food must be capable of regular disinfection & should be made of stainless steel, ceramics or food-grade plastics without joints & crevices
The layout and design of premises must ensure they are proofed to prevent pest access & considerations should include;
- All holes in walls, floors and ceilings for pipes etc are filled in with suitable materials. A mouse can get through a gap no thicker than a pen.
- Access is considered inspection for void or unused areas
- Bristle strips to doors which do not fit into their frames tightly enough to prevent rodents
- External & internal drains are covered
- Vegetation close to buildings & walls is reduced or removed
- Engage a pest contractor if you are you are vulnerable to pests
Adequate toilet facilities are vital for food handlers. The number of toilets and washbasins is dependent on the number of staff. These figures are suitable if there are male and female workers. The minimums are;
- 1- 5 staff (working at any time) 1 cubicle 1 wash basin
- 6 – 25 staff (working at any time) 2 cubicles 2 wash basins
- 25 – 50 staff (working at any time) 3 cubicles 3 wash basins
- 51 – 75 staff (working at any time) 4 cubicles 4 wash basins
- More than 75 staff working, nice to be so busy – please check regulations
If there are only male employees (so much for diversity) then these facilities can apply;
- 1 – 15 men (Working at any time) 1 cubicles 1 urinal
- 16 -30 men (working at any time) 2 cubicles 1 urinal
- 31 – 45 men (working at any time) 2 cubicles 2 urinals
- 46 – 60 men (working at any time) 3 cubicles 2 urinals
- More than this, please check regulations
Toilet and urinals must;
- Be connected to a drainage system through an effective trap & if connected to the same drainage system as food rooms should be sited after the kitchen drains
- Not open directly into a room where food is handled
- Be sited away from food handling areas
- Have adequate ventilation
- Adequately stocked hand washing facilities must be located close to toilet facilities
- Toilet facilities for catering staff should be separate from public facilities where there are more than 25 seats for customers
Best practice – fit self-closing doors between toilet facilities, provide bins for items not suitable for flushing down toilet. Wherever possible, toilets should not be used as changing rooms and site appropriate signage displayed to encourage hand washing.
Effective hand washing is vital for producing safe food. Providing sufficient and suitable facilities will enable this. To comply with the law the number of washbasins will depend on;
- Number of employees
- Size and layout of premises
- Activities being carried out
Washbasins must be;
- Provided with hot and cold water. There is no requirement for a specific temperature but it should be a comfortable temperature for the user and 30C - 40C is generally considered the ideal range
- Supplied with liquid hand soap & a hygienic method of hand drying such as disposable paper towel
- Sited in locations where high-risk or ready to eat foods are handled
- Wash basins must be designated for hand washing only and not used for other purposes
Staff changing facilities
Food handlers should only wear protective clothing when at work, as it is there to protect food from contamination. Facilities must be provided to encourage good personal hygiene.
To comply with the law;
- Suitable provision must be made to allow staff to change at work without posing a risk of contamination
- Provision must be made to allow food handlers to change and to store their everyday clothes and personal effects away from open foods
Best practice – have a designated changing room (separate from toilets) with a designated area for storage of everyday clothes.
Washing facilities for food and equipment
Although separate sinks for washing equipment, utensils and food are not specified in the regulations, care must be taken to ensure routes for cross contamination are not inadvertently provided. EHOs will expect a good safe system to be in operation to prevent contamination.
To comply with the law, adequate facilities must be provided to clean and disinfect all tools and equipment, crockery, cutlery, glasses and serving dishes that come into contact with food.
Special consideration should be given to how you will clean and disinfect equipment for raw foods and ready to eat foods.
Suitable equipment includes;
- Dishwashers and glass washers (these will provide a disinfecting action as the rinse cycle is usually above 80C, and are especially useful for equipment such as chopping boards as the fissures on the surface make disinfection more difficult.
- Sinks and sterilising sinks (must be large enough to accommodate equipment normally used in the premises)
- ‘Clean in place’ systems for sealed systems e.g. coffee machines and beer lines
Where the same sink is to be used at different times for washing food and equipment, it should undergo a thorough process of cleaning and disinfection between uses to prevent contamination.
Sanitisers should meet British Standards (BS) 1276 and 13697. Be aware of the manufactures recommended contact time.
Best practice – use separate sinks for food and equipment, signage will help identify, if washing crockery, glasses and cutlery by hand, use food grade detergent and disinfectant,
Do not wash raw meat, poultry or game as this practice spreads contamination and is not necessary as thorough cooking will destroy harmful bacteria. If washing meat is deemed necessary for cultural reasons, dip gently into water in a separate designated container, avoiding splashing surrounding areas.
Potable water is essential in food businesses because of its importance in safe food preparation and cleaning. To comply with the law, water must be potable (direct mains supply is fine)
Potable (drinkable) water must be used;
- For the cleaning of food
- For all food production processes (sous vide, water baths, bain-marie)
- In all recipes & for making ice or in post-mix units
- For cleaning of food equipment & surfaces that come into contact with food
- For food handlers hand washing
Ice machines should be sited away from sources of contamination and regularly cleaned and disinfected inside, as should containers and utensils used to store and dispense ice.
Best practice – scoops and utensils should not be stored in the ice as the handles are likely to be a vehicle for the transfer of contamination. Store scoops etc separately in a clean sanitised container, with the handle protruding.
Effective drainage is essential for the maintenance and cleanliness of hygienic premises.
To comply with the law, closed drainage systems serving food premises must;
- Allow waste to flow away easily
- Be capable of disposing of waste-water and soil drainage preventing foul air or effluent from drainage into food rooms
- Be capable of coping with peak loads without backing up or flooding
- Have points of entry protected by effective traps & have inspection chambers installed, closed with secure, airtight double covers.
Best practice – suitable provision for the removal of grease should be provided (e.g grease traps) where there is a likelihood of grease entering the drainage system. There is a duty under various EU and UK legislation to dispose of grease and specifically cooking oil responsibly, and there have been prosecutions where grease poured down drains has caused blockages.
When selecting equipment and utensils for food rooms, consideration needs to be given to hygienic requirements.
To comply with the law, catering equipment must be smooth, washable and durable so that it is capable of effective cleaning and disinfection. Materials must be non-toxic and resistant to corrosion.
Suitable materials for surfaces, equipment and fittings include;
- Aluminium and tinned copper
- Food-grade plastics and laminates
- Stainless steel
Untreated wood for example is inappropriate for direct contact with ready-to-eat foods as it is cannot be effectively cleaned and disinfected.
Ensure sufficient temperature-controlled equipment is provided to allow high-risk foods to be kept at safe temperatures.
Best practice – consider ease of dismantling/cleaning/maintenance, consider if you need colour-coded equipment, temperature displays, and use only sufficiently robust equipment (domestic equipment will often not withstand commercial use).
An appropriate maintenance programme will ensure that your building remains in good condition so food can be handled safely.
To comply with the law, walls, floors and ceilings must be kept in a good state of repair that allows them to be kept clean, and protect food from contamination.
It will be necessary to use impervious, non-toxic, non-absorbent and washable materials.
Any damage or deterioration of the building fabric will inhibit or prevent cleaning and disinfection, allowing the build up of dirt and provide a breeding ground for pests and bacteria. Any loose, chipped, flaking or powdery material could become a contamination risk and must be removed and the area repaired as soon as possible.
Ceilings must be maintained to remove any mould build up or other particles or debris that could fall into food. Food contact surfaces, equipment and utensils must be maintained and not used when deteriorated to the point that they cannot be cleaned effectively or pose a foreign body hazard or risk of contamination.
Best practice – have a scheduled maintenance plan including preventative maintenance and remove equipment no longer in use from food rooms.
We have covered the legal responsibilities relating to design and layout of food business premises along with best practices. The laws governing the regulations are cited at the start of this piece but can be interpreted in a variety of ways by different councils and different EHOs.
For help with the implementing how the regulations & food laws affect your business, whether new or existing, please contact us.
We have another report on our knowledge hub on the legal training requirements for food handlers.
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