When you are starting 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 must be registered with the local council before you start to trade. The Food Standards 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 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), 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. We can help you with the development or ongoing review and maintenance of your HACCP plan. Contact Alimenti to discuss this further.
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 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.
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.
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?
Have you considered food fraud in your supply chain?
Do your customers require you to have accreditation? You can read more about the different types here.
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.
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.
What happens if you don’t comply with the legal requirements
Changes in February 2016 to the sentencing guidelines 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 is a current case where a 15 year old died after an allergic reaction.
There are recalls regularly via the FSA for allergen mislabelling and you can sign up to receive these via email and/or text on the Food Standards Agency website, free of charge.
Useful resources for a start-up food business
Cleaning schedules advice from Safer Food Better Business
Food Information Regulations to consumers – quantity requirements