Rules and regulations
There’s no getting away from the fact that any business dealing with food is strictly governed by vast amounts of regulation and legislation. For obvious reasons, the food production industry is monitored carefully and subject to more stringent hygiene and health and safety rules than most other sectors.
As with any food business you will need to register all the business’ premises with the local authority 28 days before opening. Even if you’re not setting up a new premises and merely taking over an existing one, you still need to let the council know about the change of ownership. All local authorities are bound by European law to maintain a register of food businesses within their catchment area, so registering is a rule they’re keen to enforce.
The most important regulations relating to food preparation are:
• The Food Safety Act 1990
• Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs
• The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 (there are equivalent regulations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)
These regulations set out the basic requirements for all aspects of a food business including premises, facilities and the hygiene of you and your staff.
You are also legally required to put in place ‘food safety management procedures’ which you must:
• Permanently keep in place
• Keep up to date documents relating to the procedures
• Review all procedures if you change how you work or the food you produce
More detail on the regulations can be obtained from the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Which has produced a series of documents and guides for food businesses.
There are also different regulations that apply to different sectors within the food production industry. For example, a business dealing with meat such as an abattoir will be bound by different rules to those in the dairy sector. Your local authority should be able to tell you what applies to you when you register your premises.
“The most common reason people are prosecuted is for not keeping their premises clean and in a state of good repair,” says Ashleigh Birkett, a lawyer specialising in food businesses at Eversheds.
“As soon as you start operating you have to be up to the right standards because the environmental health authority could carry out an inspection at any time.”
It’s also your responsibility to make sure the ingredients and equipment you use is safe and hygienic even before it reaches your premises. This involves choosing trustworthy and reliable suppliers.
“A lot of the concept of food law comes down to due diligence,” says Birkett. “You need to be able to satisfy yourself that you’re happy with all aspects of what you’re getting. Ask the right questions of your suppliers to avoid problems along the chain of supply.”
Any business in the manufacturing industry has to take even more precautions to satisfy health and safety requirements. It’s your responsibility to make sure your staff are adequately trained to operate any piece of equipment they deal with.
More information on this can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.
“Keeping up to date with legislation was a challenge but we’d like to think we did a good job of incorporating it into our daily routine,” says Bhujwalla. “We got a lot of free training from government-funded courses, and made sure we took advantage of all the help available to small businesses.”