Last updated: 16.10.23

The Evolution of Food Hygiene and Safety Regulations

Why are Food Hygiene Regulations so important?

Food and drink is a fast-paced sector that’s constantly changing to keep up with consumer demands. As a result, food safety and hygiene legislation has to evolve equally fast to keep pace with emerging trends in the food industry, and ensure that a good level of safety is maintained by all food businesses.

In recent years, food hygiene and safety legislation has changed to account for things like our increasingly globalised supply chains, and demand for fresher produce and other equally large shifts in the food industry, culminating in the release of the sweeping Food Hygiene Regulations 2006. In this article, we’ll look at 3 key moments in the development of food hygiene legislation.

The Food Safety Act 1990

Prior to 1990, the bulk of food safety legislation was focused on ensuring that food was free from adulterants and generally fit for human consumption. Older food safety legislation also set out rules for the labelling of prepackaged food, but it didn’t set out clear standards for food hygiene, or specify that food businesses were solely responsible for ensuring that their product was safe to eat.

All of this changed in 1990, when the government introduced the Food Safety Act 1990. This act established that food businesses (from bakeries to restaurants, catering services or juice bars) are responsible for ensuring that:

  • The food they sell does not compromise a person’s health
  • Everything that they serve or sell is of the nature, substance or quality which consumers would expect
  • Food is labelled, advertised and presented in a way that is not false or misleading

The Act does doesn’t specifically mention food hygiene, but it does form the basis and framework for the hygiene-specific regulations that would be introduced later, and it’s still considered to be the foundation of UK food safety and hygiene legislation.

Looking for more information on the Food Safety Act 1990? Click here to read our guide.

EC Regulation 852/2004

Introduced in 2004 by the EU, the EC Regulations 825/2014 built upon the basic principles of the food hygiene act and introduced rules that were designed to improve food safety across the Europe.

The most important part of the EC Regulations 825/2004 is the part that states that all food businesses must implement and maintain a food safety system based on HACCP principles.

HACCP (or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is a management system that’s designed to prevent food from becoming contaminated, damaged or spoiled by teaching staff to analyse their business processes, account for potential hazards and take steps to ensure that food is kept safe at key moments during its manufacture, transportation or distribution.

Get more information on HACCP control point with our free Guide. Click here to read.

Ever since EC Regulations 825/2004 were introduced, it has been a legal requirement for all UK food businesses to have a HACCP-based safety management plan. While these plans don’t guarantee a satisfactory level of food hygiene, their introduction is considered to be an important point in the evolution of food hygiene and safety regulations.

Looking for HACCP training? Find out more about our Level 2 HACCP & Level 3 HACCP training courses.

Food Hygiene Regulations 2006

Designed to further refine the legislation introduced by the EU and crack down on the spread of foodborne illnesses - the Food hygiene Regulations 2006 set out the government's current standpoint on food safety and hygiene.

The Food Hygiene Regulations 2006 are widely considered to be the most important food safety and hygiene regulations in the UK, and it’s important to note that they go a step further than the Food Safety Act 1990 by specifying that all food businesses have a legal obligation to ensure that they prepare and serve food in a safe and hygienic manner. The regulations make it an offence for businesses to supply food which is not safe to be eaten and is potentially harmful to the health of customers, and also specify that:

  • All food producing businesses must register with the relevant authorities
  • Food should always be labelled correctly and should meet all the relevant quality standards
  • Premises used for the preparation or sale of foods are designed and constructed in a way that permits good hygiene
  • Food businesses should have suitable pest control measures

Unlike previous regulations, the Food Hygiene Regulations 2006 also make it your legal duty to ensure that all members of staff have adequate training in food safety and food hygiene. This requirement was introduced to prevent foodborne illnesses from being spread via preventable methods (such as the cross-contamination of equipment) and it’s important to note that the FSA do look closely at the food hygiene training that you’ve provided if they have cause to investigate your business.

If you’d like to learn more about food hygiene training, or you’re looking for a reliable course for your team, you may be interested in our Level 2 Food Hygiene for Catering course.

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