Last updated on 14 January 2011
Frequently asked questions by food businesses
Frequently asked questions by food businesses and those starting a business
When setting up a food business, we recommend you start with our guides:
- Starting Up – Your first steps to running a catering business (PDF format)
- Food Hygiene – A Guide For Businesses (PDF format)
- Safer Food Better Business
You can order these in hard copy on 0845 606 0667.
These booklets focus on the main areas you need to consider when running a food business and will also point you in the right direction if you need further assistance. You should also read our webpage on general food law, which gives further advice about the law on safety, withdrawal and recall.
For advice on the labelling of specific food products, it’s a good idea to contact the Trading Standards Department of your local county or unitary council, who have responsibility for food law enforcement. This includes the checking of product labels. You can find the contact details of your local Trading Standards Office here. Alternatively you may wish to consider employing a consultant to help you.
The Food Standards Agency is the Government department responsible for food safety and hygiene legislation, but you will also need to speak to the Environmental Health Department (EHD) in the borough, district or unitary council in which your business is located. The Environmental Health Officers there will be able to give you advice on hygiene and safety especially relevant to your business and are in the best position to determine which parts of food law apply to your business type. You will need to register with the EHD at least 28 days before you intend to trade. You can locate your EHD via the same link as for the Trading Standards Officers above.
There is no law as to whether children's homes or care homes are food businesses and it will be for the local authority to make a decision in each case. A food business is defined as an 'undertaking', whether for profit or not and whether public or private, carrying out any of the activities related to any stage of production, processing and distribution of food. An 'undertaking' is considered to have 'a certain continuity of activities and a certain degree of organisation', so whether a particular children's home or care home is a food business will depend on these criteria.
There is no general testing required for food. However, under European regulations (Regulation (EC) 178/2002), food must not be sold if it is unsafe. ‘Unsafe’ means that it makes people ill or is not fit to be eaten so you will need to make sure that the food you sell comes up to standard. Also, the Food Labelling Regulations require that food must be labelled to say how long it will be fit to eat and so you may need to test the product to determine this. For further information about testing you may wish to contact the Association of Public Analysts and they will be able to advise you on the occasions where testing would be necessary and suitable tests to carry out.
What are the training requirements for food business operators and handlers: do I need a Food Hygiene certificate?
You do not need a food hygiene certificate – it is not mandatory for anyone, either working full-time or at one-off events. If you are working with food you do need to be supervised and instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters proportionate to the work. If you wish to study for a food hygiene qualification, try your local college of further education, or local authority for information about what is available in your area.
Every person working in a food-handling area must maintain a high level of personal cleanliness. He or she must wear suitable, clean clothing and, where necessary, protective clothing. The Agency’s advice is:
- staff should keep hair tied back and wear a suitable head covering, e.g. hat or hairnet, when preparing food
- when preparing food staff should not wear watches or jewellery (except a wedding ring)
- staff should not touch their face and hair, smoke, spit, sneeze, eat or chew gum when handling food