Start-Up Food and drink business

When you are starting up a food and drink business, there are lots of things to consider. Food safety and compliance is key to the success of your business. 

Any start-up food and drink business in the UK must be registered with the local council before you start to trade.  It is a legal requirement to register your food and drink business with the local Environmental Health department or EHO. It is free and registration cannot be refused. Follow the link above to your local council’s web site. The Food Standards Agency website has lots of information about the laws and regulations surrounding food and drink. Drink businesses are also considered to be food businesses as far as registration and most legislation is concerned 

As a start-up food or drink business you will need to put food safety at the top of your list of priorities. One of the first food safety considerations is HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point). In the UK, it is also a legal requirement. This will help you to identify any areas of your food production which needs to be controlled for food safety. There is a free tool which will help you at My HACCP  . For a more detailed approach follow the link to the HACCP page. Do you need help with the development or ongoing review and maintenance of your HACCP plan? Contact me to discuss this further or book a free, no obligation call at the link at the top of the page. 

In England and Wales, the Food Standards Agency  produces a document called Safer Food Better Business, aimed at small food and drink businesses, particularly home based and cafes/restaurants.

In Scotland, Food Standards Scotland have the CookSafe and RetailSafe food safety management systems available online.

In Northern Ireland, the document is called SafeFood .

HACCP inspections and audits


It is essential that any labelling is correct, both from a legal perspective and also for customer information. As a start-up food and drink business, you should be aware that there are several pieces of legislation that cover food and drink labelling, from ingredients to weights and measures. It is important that you follow the regulations that affect the products where it is sold as well as produced. In the UK, we are currently subject to EU as well as country specific legislation. Speak to your local regulatory authority to find out what applies to your products.

The FSA has websites which are specific to each of the countries that make up the UK, and Scotland has the Scottish Food Standards Agency.  The law is different depending on whether you are selling food direct to the consumer, and whether it is wrapped or packaged or not. It also changes dependent on whether you make and sell it on the premises, or make it in one place, and sell it in another.

Weights and measures

It is important that all of the legislation for weights and measures for your product are adhered to, for example, the requirement for calibrated scales for the final packed weight. For average weight legislation, it is important to know the three packers rules. As a start-up food and drink business, you may decide to begin with minimum weight declarations and move into average weights, if appropriate, as your business grows.

Pest control

Pests cause damage and carry bacteria and viruses. They need food, shelter (harbourage), time and warmth to grow and multiply. Good housekeeping will manage most of these, along with maintenance of food preparation areas and ensuring that pest prevention measures are used to reduce the risk of entry. A reputable pest control contractor will also survey your premises and practices and give advice. It is also a good idea to walk the site with them to understand where any baits are laid and also ensure that COSHH data sheets are available. Goods In checks will also ensure that pests are not brought in with other foodstuffs. The FSA publish a guidance sheet to aid checks here.


As you develop your business plan and start to source your ingredients, good practice is to begin to develop a supply chain management plan or strategy. This may include consideration of the source or hygiene standards of your supplier. Have you visited their premises? Do you know that their hygiene practices are as good as your requirements? Have you had a food safety audit of their business performed by a qualified auditor?


Training is an essential element of the food safety management system for any food and drink business. The Food Standards Agency has a series of videos and links to support businesses here  The Bacteria Bites Business video on this page shows what can happen when basic controls are not completed.


Cleaning is critical to all areas of your food and drink business. It is important that the people doing the cleaning understand the importance of the task and are trained  in the cleaning and COSHH. COSHH  is short for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health and under the COSHH Regulations 2002, employers need to either prevent or reduce their workers’ exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health. It is also important to ensure that the chemicals used are food safe and not perfumed. The lubricants used in machinery are also covered by COSHH regulations and should also be food safe. It is important to perform COSHH assessments on each chemical, and document these. Keep cleaning chemicals in a locked cupboard, clearly labelled.

From a food safety perspective, cleaning needs to be effective. It is also important that there is no possibility of the chemicals used for cleaning transferring into the product. Make sure that you have data sheets from the manufacturer to enable a COSHH assessment to be made. It is also good practice to record the cleaning, both that it has been done and also to the required standard. As your business grows, you will also want to measure the effectiveness of the cleaning, by microbiological and/or rapid methods. Furthermore, this will allow you to manage your cleaning more effectively. Alimenti can help with the development of microbiology testing plans.

What happens if you don’t comply with the legal requirements?

Changes in February 2016 to the sentencing guidelines in the UK for prosecutions have extended the possible sentences and fines for food offences. A case in 2016 led to Mohammed Zaman being jailed for 6 years following failure to correctly inform a consumer of the contents of a curry, the consumer subsequently died. There have been several cases where a people died after an allergic reaction to food, including Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, whose parents won a campaign to change the law, after Natasha died.

A case more recently involved a restaurant who had to pay over £8000 after serving a dish containing peanuts to a peanut allergy sufferer who had declared her allergy to the restaurant.

There are recalls regularly via the FSA for allergen mislabeling and you can sign up to receive these via email and/or text on the Food Standards Agency website, free of charge.

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