Why is food hygiene important for catering businesses?
What is Food Hygiene?
Food Hygiene relates to the conditions, actions and legislation employed to ensure that food is safe from contamination at point of product cycle. Food can become contaminated at any point of the process from production to consumption.
Food Hygiene relies on everyone involved in the food supply chain to ensure that they meet U.K food standards regulations to reduce the risk of contamination and protect everyone from dangerous food and potential illness.
Why is Food Hygiene such an issue?
Food hygiene should always be a top priority, but it’s particularly important if you’re running a catering business, and frequently prepare food for large parties, corporate events or public gatherings. Foodborne illnesses like norovirus or E. coli can spread very quickly, and it doesn't take much to cause an outbreak. Forgetting to wash out an old container, cross-contaminating a chopping board or even letting food sit out in the sun for too long can be enough to jeopardize your clients’ health, and open you up to a costly lawsuit.
Failing to follow proper hygiene procedures can also which is why it’s important to ensure that your staff are trained properly, and that your business is fully compliant with the food hygiene standards set by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Why is catering considered a high-risk area?
Caterers often prepare dishes in bulk, which amplifies the risk of spreading contamination to multiple people, and reduces the likelihood that any food-borne illnesses will remain specific to one or two individuals. If you work in catering, you’ll also know that catering companies are often expected to serve food in environments that are not designed to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination.
These spaces often lack adequate handwashing facilities; may force caterers to serve high-risk dishes in close proximity to raw food, and frequently lack easy-wipe or hygienic surfaces which means that caterers have to work doubly hard to safeguard the health of their clients.
According to a study published in 2018, 60% of foodborne disease outbreaks are linked to eating establishments and commercial caterers, and 49% of these outbreaks are also thought to be caused by improper behaviours relating to food storage, food handling and basic hygiene.
Who is responsible for ensuring good food hygiene?
If you own or manage a food business, you’re legally obliged to ensure everyone in your business is trained to handle food safely, and knows the basics of food hygiene.
According to the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006, business owners are obliged to ensure that their food business is as safe as it possibly can be, which means taking steps to ensure that food is prepared in a hygienic way, and (more importantly) ensuring that all food handlers are supervised and instructed and / or trained in food hygiene matters that are relevant to their roles. This means that it is up to you to decide what training is appropriate for your chefs, line cooks and servers, but it also means that failure to provide adequate training is a punishable offence and may lead to hefty fines. Particularly if your business is found to be operating in an unhygienic or unsafe way.
Need more information on food hygiene legislation? Read our guide to the evolution of food hygiene regulations.
What are the risks?
Failure to comply with food hygiene standards can open you up to costly lawsuits. In 2018, a catering company in Merseyside was fined £5,300 after their poor hygiene practices were found to have made a young toddler sick, and it’s important to note that cases like this are relatively common.
According to the Food Safety Act 1990, breaching food safety & hygiene regulations can also lead to up to 6 months of jail time per offence, so it’s always best to ensure that you are training your staff properly.
To avoid costly lawsuits and ensure that your business runs smoothly, it’s best to ensure that every member of staff has some form of food safety and hygiene training. In an ideal scenario, this training would cover
- The 4Cs (cleaning, cooking, chilling and cross-contamination)
- The right way to store and handle food
- How to transport food safely
- How to take care of their own, personal hygiene
- How to safeguard your business by inspecting food and ensuring high quality standards
Get more insight into the 4 Principles of food safety with our online guide. Read now.
If you’re searching for accessible food hygiene training that’s been tailored to the catering industry, you may be interested in our Level 2 Food Safety & Hygiene for Catering course.