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Last updated: 13.09.17

Health & Hygiene: Everything cake baking businesses need to know

Thanks to the likes of instagram, and various well known TV shows, there’s been an explosion in baking interest in recent years, which has led to hundreds of new businesses popping up around the country. And with the likes of instagram making marketing more accessible and affordable than ever, it’s not surprising that people have decided to do this from home.

When selling cakes and other treats from home, it’s common for bakers to think that they won't need to register their businesses or be compliant with food hygiene and safety laws. When you’re just selling food in your spare time or to a small customer base, you might not even consider yourself part of a business. However, even in these circumstances, there are a number of food and hygiene and safety laws you must follow and be aware of. Let’s take a look.

Do FSA requirements apply to me?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has created guidance for those who produce food for community or charity purposes. However, these guidelines apply only to those preparing food if there is not a certain continuity of activities and a particular degree of organisation. For this to apply, activities must occur less frequently than once a month. As a result, this is unlikely to be suitable for home businesses. Ultimately, this means that you almost certainly will be subject to the normal requirements and regulations of the FSA.

Do I need to register my business even when baking at home?

Even if you are preparing food in the comfort of your own home, you must register your business with your local authority. There are different processes for this depending on where you live, so it’s important to get in touch with your local council at the earliest opportunity. They’ll help you understand what you need to do.

Will I be inspected?

Once you have registered your business, environmental health will visit your home to inspect: your premises, the food you make or prepare, how you work, and your food safety management system. This can be daunting, which is why it’s important to be fully clued up and prepared before you start.

There is also legislation in place that requires food businesses to have a documented Food Safety Management system based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) best practice. This will require you to pinpoint and document factors that could potentially make your food a risk to customers. You must then document the measures you take to prevent these risks. This is a legal requirement.Should any hazards occur, you must make a record of them and how you’ve dealt with them.

Your business can be inspected by a health and safety inspector at any time and they are able to request to see records of your risk assessment as and when they choose. Roughly, you can expect such visits once or twice a year depending on how you’ve performed in your initial assessment.

What about food allergens?

If a customer with a food allergy consumes an ingredient they cannot eat, the effects can be life-threatening or lead to long-term health conditions. In the UK, food allergies affect roughly eight per cent of children and two per cent of adults, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

To avoid any situation when someone with an allergy is in danger, there are laws in place relating to how allergen information is provided by food businesses. There is EU legislation in place that requires businesses to label their products with the full ingredient information, helping those with allergies to avoid foods that could be dangerous to them. If labelling is not practical, such as if the food is on display, or the packaging cannot contain information, then the information must be readily available to any customers that ask to see it.

Food businesses must also highlight any allergens that have been used in the ingredients, including gluten, eggs, peanuts, nuts, milk and sesame, all of which are frequently used in cake baking.

How do I prove I have good food hygiene?

We’ve already mentioned the importance of impressing hygiene inspectors, but certifications are useful too.

While those working in food businesses are not required to have a food hygiene certificate, it certainly helps prove to your customers that you have good food safety and hygiene. In addition, EU law mandates that anyone working with food has training appropriate to their role. While the specifics of this aren’t detailed, it’s generally recognised that everyone working with food needs the Food Hygiene Certificate to Level 2, and this most certainly goes for home bakers.

Where can I get help?

As we’ve already discussed, your local authority will be able to help you with all of the registration issues, as well as giving you guidance on what they expect in terms of food safety. However, it’s likely that you’ll need some training, it’s certainly important to consider taking the Level 2 Food Hygiene course. Here at Virtual College, we’re pleased to be able to provide this with engaging online e-learning courses.