Food Businesses And The Law

Maintaining sufficient Food Hygiene Standards is a must for any food business which is why there are many Food Hygiene Courses based upon current UK legislation.

Legislation surrounding food production and handling in the UK is always changing and evolving which means keeping up to date is really important. Most recently, in 2006, the government introduced the ‘Food Hygiene Regulations Act’ (HACCP) which more or less just extended the legislation passed in 1995. The earlier legislation required all food handlers to be supervised, instructed and trained in food liver hygiene matters to a level appropriate to their job, while the 2006 act stated this as well as two additional and important new inclusions:

1) A Food Safety Management System must be implemented and records kept demonstrating compliance with the legal regulations.

2) Businesses must identify steps critical to food safety and ensure adequate procedures are identified, implemented, maintained and reviewed using HACCP principles.

Punishments for food safety offences

Food business owners who do not comply with food hygiene legislation can receive large fines or even prison sentences. Fines can be as much as £5,000 and prison sentences 6 months. In more serious cases, for more extreme food safety offences, fines could be as much as £20,000 and perpetrators could face up to 2 years in prison.

Every local authority in the UK has the power to control the sale of unfit, injurious or sub-standard food. Environmental Health Officers, (EHOs), have the power to enter any establishment to carry out an inspection or seize samples at any reasonable time. An EHO may also impose an improvement order, close down your business, fine you or prosecute you. It is illegal to prevent them from gaining access to your food premises. Failure to co-operate with an EHO is a criminal offence. Remember that the EHO is actually there to help you. Their responsibility is to ensure that the food you produce/sell/serve to the general public is safe. If an Environmental Health Officer believes there is an imminent risk to people’s health, they will issue a hygiene emergency prohibition notice and immediately close the business.

Your EHO’s role is to:

Carry out routine inspections
Investigate food poisoning outbreaks
Investigate food complaints
Ensure product safety and fitness
Monitor conditions and hygienic operations
Ensure compliance with legislation
Offer advice
Take away suspect food and have it condemned if it is unsafe
Take companies to court for breaking food safety laws.
You will sometimes hear the words, ‘Due Diligence’. This means in Law that you have taken all reasonable precautions, (shown due diligence) to ensure food safety. Therefore you have done everything you possibly can to make sure that the food you serve is safe. Written records are also a good way of proving ‘due diligence’. If you can prove that you have cooked the food to the correct temperature, stored the food correctly, and served the food at the right temperature within a set time limit, these can be used as a ‘due diligence defence’.

If for example you see signs of pest activity, and then you report this to your supervisor, you have shown due diligence. If your supervisor then decides to do nothing about it, any fine from the EHO, (£5000 to £20,000) will be imposed on your supervisor, not you. Also should you be ill and report this to your supervisor before starting work, you have shown due diligence. If your supervisor then tells you to come to work, then once again, any fine from the EHO will be imposed on the supervisor not you. Owners and anyone who is in charge of food premises have greater legal responsibilities than food handlers. Always remember that the Law is there to protect you and more importantly to ensure that the food you produce, sell or serve to the general public is safe.

Six Food Safety Laws

Keep yourselves & your workplace clean, and wear suitable, clean protective clothing
Store, prepare and display food at safe temperatures
Do everything possible to protect food from contamination
Inform your employer if they have symptoms of a food-borne illness
Don’t do anything that would expose food to contamination
Don’t sell food with an expired date mark or food unfit for human consumption.

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