The Food Safety Act 1990: A guide for businesses
It is compulsory that businesses across the UK follow the regulations outlined in the Food Safety Act 1990. Failure to comply can result in heavy fines and even imprisonment.
The safety of food should be a main concern for food businesses. In today’s world, consumers deserve to have confidence that food they are served is what they expect and, won't harm them, as well as know they are protected from fraud. While food legislation affects citizens across the country, it is those working in production, processing, storage, distribution and sale of food that the Food Safety Act 1990 particularly applies and is relevant to.
What are my main responsibilities?
Under the Food Safety Act 1990, businesses have three main responsibilities, they include:
1. Ensuring you do not include or remove anything from food or treat food in a way that means it would be damaging to the health of those eating it.
2. Ensuring that food served or sold is of the nature, substance or quality of which consumers would expect.
3. Ensuring food is labelled, advertised and presented in a way that isn’t false or misleading to others.
What does the Act cover?
According to the government’s facts guide, the Act covers all operations involved in: selling and possessing with a value to sale, free supply in the course of a business, consigning and delivering, preparing, presentation and labelling, storing, transporting, and importing and exporting food.
It is important to note that the Act does not cover hygiene. This is because there is separate legislation in regard to this, which was made using the powers given under the Act. It does, however, cover food prepared by childminders in their homes for other people’s children and extends to activities such as preparation of food in canteens, clubs, schools, hospitals, institutions and public and local authorities.
What does it mean for food importers?
Despite the UK having voted to leave the European Union (EU), until it has actually left, the rules and regulations that apply to the EU, will apply to the UK also. Changes to this legislation will be discussed as part of the Brexit negotiations.
Until then, the UK remains part of the EU’s single market and, therefore, there are no import controls at borders on food being brought in from other Member States. Importers of food from countries outside of the EU, do, however, have to comply with the requirements of EU food law.
Any food that is imported must meet food safety and hygiene requirements equivalent to those for UK-produced food and, according to the government, can be subject to checks by enforcement authorities at points of import and inland.
What does the Act require businesses to do?
In short, food businesses must ensure food does not compromise a person’s health, and that it is of the nature or substance or quality demanded by the purchaser’s prejudice. Food businesses must also make sure they don't falsely describe or present food.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) states that:
“The day-to-day work of enforcement is, in the main, the responsibility of environmental health practitioners and trading standards officers from local (food) authorities.
“We enforce some regulations made under the Act (for example, licensing of irradiated food facilities) and have scope to become involved in certain emergency situations or where a local authority fails to discharge its responsibilities under the Act.”
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