Starting and running a food business

Comply with food safety regulations

Food safety legislation exists to protect the public from unsafe food.

Caterers are regularly inspected by their local environmental health service to make sure they comply with food safety and food standards legislation.

Food safety guidance

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has produced guidance on food safety management systems for caterers and retailers to help them comply with food safety legislation and achieve best practice. Two such tools have been produced, safe catering and safer food better business to help businesses:

  • comply with food hygiene regulations
  • understand how to make food safely
  • train staff
  • keep records demonstrating that your food safety procedures are effective

The pack may also help you to:

  • protect your business' reputation
  • improve your business' efficiency - eg by wasting less food

Minimise E.coli guidance

The FSA has issued guidance on what food businesses need to do to control the risk of contamination from E.coli O157. E.coli is a strain of the bacteria that can cause particularly severe illnesses or death. Following the measures described in the guidance will also help to control other bacteria including salmonella and campylobacter.

Staff sickness and food handling

The food handlers fitness to work guidance aims to help managers and staff to prevent the spread of infection by advising which illnesses and symptoms staff should report and what managers should do in response.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point

All catering and retail food business operators are required to have in place food safety procedures based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles.

HACCP is an internationally recognised and recommended system of food safety management. It focuses on identifying the 'critical points' in a process where food safety problems - or 'hazards' - could arise and putting steps in place to prevent things going wrong.

Regulations require food businesses to produce food that's safe to eat. They must also be able to show how they ensure food safety, and have this written down. However, the procedures can be applied flexibly to reflect the size of your business and its activities.

The guidance included in safe catering and safer food, better business helps caterers and retailers implement documented food safety management procedures based on HACCP. Your local council environmental health service can also advise you. Find your local council in Northern Ireland.

Traceability and withdrawal of food

All food businesses, must be able to identify businesses:

  • from whom they have obtained food or ingredients
  • they have supplied with food products

This is to help enforcement officers if there is a problem with food safety that means food may have to be withdrawn or recalled. Records should include:

  • the address of the customer or supplier
  • the nature and quantity of products
  • the date of the transaction or delivery

They can be in the form of invoices, or written or computerised records.

Food businesses need to withdraw from sale food which is unsafe. They must let the environmental health department of their local council and the FSA know if they have supplied unsafe food to customers. See food incidents: advice for businesses.