Thinking of opening a B&B or small hotel? One of your biggest considerations will naturally be the safety of your guests, and one of the biggest potential threats will always be foodborne illnesses and allergies. They can range from minor inconveniences to severe issues that close down your business. As a result, it’s very important that you think about food hygiene, just as any other business that serves food would do. In this article, we’re going to think about the main things that you need to give consideration to – what the law requires of you and what this will mean in practice.
First and foremost, it’s your local authority that is the most important legal body when it comes to your standards of food hygiene. There are EU and UK regulations, but ultimately your local council will be the one that enforces these. Rules can differ between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as by region, so it’s always worth checking with your council if you’re ever in doubt. They will have a dedicated department for dealing with food businesses.
The main obligations you need to be aware of are that you and any of your employees handling or serving food need to be appropriately trained, and you must be storing, preparing and serving food safely. The law doesn't explicitly detail how either of those things should be achieved, but the latter is entirely down to the discretion of the food safety inspectors in your area. They do of course work to similar standards across the country, and the government does publish documentation on what they expect.When it comes to training, there are no set rules, but you must make sure that you and your employees know what they’re doing. The best way to prove to any inspector that everyone has adequate training is to undertake an accredited certificate. There are three that are widely used across all food-related industries, and they are the Level 1, 2 and 3 Food Hygiene certificates. Level 1 may be useful for serving staff who don’t directly deal with food, Level 2 is the standard for anyone who works in your kitchen, and then if you’re really looking to achieve the highest standards, Level 3 would be ideal for you as a business owner, or if you have senior managers that look after the kitchen on your behalf. Find out more about these courses on our Food Hygiene section here.
We’ve already mentioned the important role that food hygiene inspectors play when it comes to food hygiene, and they tie in directly with the food hygiene rating. This is something that most people are familiar with – it’s the rating from 0 to 5 stars given to any business that serves food to the public that must be publicly displayed. This is how inspectors will determine if you’re meeting your obligations under the law, and the factors in the next section will decide which rating you get. When you first open, an inspector will take a look at the premises and everything you’re doing, and then unannounced inspections will take place in the future.
We’ve covered what the law expects of you, why your hygiene rating is important, and what an inspection involves, but what does it all mean in practice? What are the things that you should be considering in order to meet and exceed basic food hygiene standards in your establishment?
Most businesses that serve food in any way will work to the four Cs, whether they’re aware of what they mean or not. These are a good way of covering the main points that you need to think about. The specifics are beyond the scope of this article, but achieving a good standard of all the following will see you to a good rating from your local food hygiene officers.
Probably the first thing that comes to mind when food hygiene is mentioned is of course cleaning. If your B&B or small hotel is to get a good rating, you’ll need to ensure that everything is clean. This means cleaning the areas food is stored, prepared and served, and anything that comes into contact with the food should be clean too.
Whether you’re just preparing a light continental breakfast for guests, or you offer half board too, there’s every chance that you’re going to be cooking on the premises, and you need to ensure that you’re doing this safely. The most important aspect to this is ensuring that food is cooked to the right temperature.
At the opposite end to cooking is of course chilling. Proper refrigeration prevents harmful bacteria from growing, or slows down its growth, so it’s hugely important that the right food is being kept at the right temperatures. Inspectors will want to see that this is happening and that you have a system in place.
The final C is cross contamination. You mustn’t let your hard work in cooking, cleaning and chilling go to waste by allowing foodstuffs to come into contact with one another when they shouldn’t. This is how bacteria is spread. In addition, this is very important when it comes to managing allergies, which is something you’ll have to do for your guests.