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What is The Food Safety Act 1990? A guide for businesses

schedule 10th August 2018 by Arooj Jamil in Food and Drink Last updated on 7th December 2018


**Environmental law states that all food businesses in the UK must follow the food hygiene regulations set out in the Food Safety Act 1990. Offences committed under the Act or failure to comply can result in heavy fines and even imprisonment.**

Why is the Food Safety Act important?

Food safety policy should be a key priority for all businesses that handle, prepare, store or serve food. This type of environmental legislation is in place to make sure consumers' health is never put at harm by the way their food has been prepared.

While food safety affects everyone, it is those working in the industry who need to ensure compliance with the Food Safety Act 1990.

What is the The Food Safety Act 1990, and What are a Businesses Responsibilities?

The Food Safety Act 1990 provides the framework for all food legislation in the U.K which effects all food businesses in the U.K and outlines the standards businesses need to meet in order to protect consumers

The three main responsibilities of businesses under the Food Safety Act 1990 are:

  1. To ensure nothing is added to or removed from food that could damage the health of consumers, and that it is not treated in a way that could cause harm.
  1. To ensure all food served or sold to consumers is of the nature, substance and quality they would expect.
  1. To ensure food is never labelled, advertised or presented in a false or misleading way.

Failing to comply with these responsibilities could mean businesses are committing offences under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, as well as the Food Safety Act 1990.

What the Food Safety Act 1990 covers

The Food Safety Act 1990 sets out environmental regulations for all businesses involved in selling food and buying with a view to sell, supplying food, consigning or delivering it, and in preparing, presenting, labelling, storing, transporting, importing or exporting food.

Whether it's a large-scale food-processing factory, an independent bakery, a childminder preparing food for other people's children or a canteen in a school, hospital or local authority base, it needs to comply with the Food Safety Act 1990.

This specific food safety policy does not cover food hygiene regulations, as there is separate legislation for this. However, food hygiene legislation was devised using powers awarded under the Act.

What does the Food Safety Act 1990 mean for food importers?

Until the UK officially leaves the European Union (EU), the same food safety rules applying to the EU will apply in Britain too. Brexit negotiations are set to include discussions on how this may change afterwards.

But for now, the UK remains part of the single market, meaning there are no import controls at borders on food being imported from other EU member states. However, food importers from outside the EU do have to comply with EU food law requirements.

All imported food must comply with the same food hygiene and safety regulations as UK-produced food. Imported food can be subject to checks by government enforcement authorities at import points, and inland.

What do businesses need to do under the Food Safety Act 1990?

In short, businesses must ensure food does not compromise a person’s health, and that it is of the nature, substance or quality demanded by the purchaser’s prerogative. Food businesses must also make sure they don't falsely describe or present food.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) states: “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.”

But it is important for food businesses to take responsibility for their compliance with the Food Safety Act 1990 as well. Virtual College is a market leader in food hygiene and safety courses, which are designed to help companies comply with environmental regulations and provide their customers with the best possible experience.

Browse our full range of food hygiene courses here

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Arooj Jamil Author

Author: Arooj Jamil

Arooj is a Learning Technology Advisor, with a degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Bradford, and is experienced in working with Local Authorities, Safeguarding Boards and Third Sector organisations. In her spare time, she enjoys updating her food blog, feeding her colleagues and avoiding counting calories.

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