Hygiene for food businesses

Food hygiene and the law

Food businesses have legal responsibilities relating to registration of their business and complying with food law.

Food business registration

28 days prior to opening a food business, you must register your food establishment with the environmental health service (EHS) at your local council. Food operations include:

  • selling food
  • cooking food
  • preparing food
  • distributing food
  • storing food
  • handling food

You may also need to have your establishments approved if you supply another business with:

  • meat and meat products
  • eggs
  • milk and dairy products
  • fish and fish products

For information on how to register a business, contact the EHS in your local council. Find your local council contact details in Northern Ireland. The EHS will also be able to advise you about how the law applies to your business in practice. Read starting and running a food business.

Food hygiene and safety inspections

Your food business establishment will be inspected by food safety enforcement officers from your local council to make sure you are complying with food law. You will not usually be given notice of a food safety inspection.

When they think it is necessary, food safety inspectors can take enforcement action to protect the public, including:

  • serving a legal notice that sets out certain things you must do or forbidding you from using certain processes, premises or equipment 
  • recommending a prosecution, in serious cases

See what to expect from a food safety inspection.

Food hygiene regulations

Food hygiene regulations set out the hygiene requirements for all aspects of your business and require you to make sure that:

  • your establishments meet hygiene standards
  • staff follow good personal hygiene practice
  • food safety hazards (including cooking, refrigeration, cross contamination etc)
  • staff receive adequate instruction and/or training in food hygiene, and are supervised
  • you keep written records of how you manage food safety hazards

You should be aware that food businesses are required to put in place food safety management procedures based on the principles of HACCP (hazard analysis critical control point). In practice, this means that you must have documented procedures in place to manage food safety hazards in your business. Guides such as the Safe Catering Pack, safer food better business and industry guides will assist you in meeting this legal requirement.