Operating within a food business, whether it be directly dealing with and handling food, or perhaps just working in management, means abiding by the law. Just like any other sector, there are a number of regulations in the food industry that must be followed to ensure that both consumers and employers are as safe as possible.
The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 is an example of UK food safety legislation that was introduced as a way of implementing good food hygiene practices into every stage of the food production chain. Whilst it is one of the oldest laws still in operation, and new pieces of legislation have since been introduced to provide more information about topics it covers, it’s still an important part of food safety legislation history in the UK.
Food handlers, manufacturers and producers are required to follow many regulations to ensure both consumers and employers are safe. In this article, we take a look at The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 and explain what it covers and how your food business can ensure that you comply.
The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 is a piece of UK legislation that outlines a range of general food hygiene standards that apply across the European Community, as part of the Food Hygiene Directive (93/43/EC). The main intention of the regulations, as outlined in Provision 4, is that the owners of food businesses should ensure that the “preparation, processing, manufacturing, packaging, storing, transportation, distribution, handling and offering for sale or supply, of food are carried out in a hygienic way”.
These regulations also make it mandatory for food business owners to “identify any step in the activities of the food business which is critical to ensuring food safety and ensure that adequate safety procedures are identified, implemented, maintained and reviewed”. This is essentially outlining the process of completing a risk assessment to ensure that there aren’t any aspects of your business processes that are creating food hygiene risks.
The Food Safety Regulations 1995 has an impact on the whole food chain, so even if you only package or distribute food products, your business is still impacted.
The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 apply to all food businesses, which are defined in the legislation as “any undertaking, whether carried on for profit or not and whether public or private, carrying out any or all of the following operations, namely, preparation, processing, manufacturing, packaging, storing, transportation, distribution, handling or offering for sale or supply, of food”.
In the UK, any property that prepares food (restaurants, food manufacturers, cafes etc) needs to be registered with the local authority. Here, environmental health officers will ensure that the correct procedures and standards are being adhered to and ensure that you are complying with legislation like the Food Safety Regulations 1995.
UK food hygiene regulations like The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 are enforced by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). This is a non-ministerial department that works to ensure that businesses are performing their duties under food safety law.
The Food Safety Regulations 1995 applies to food businesses across the UK. In order to comply with these regulations, you must follow a range of rules for food hygiene, which we’ll briefly cover below.
In Provision 4 of the legislation, food business proprietors are required to carry out a risk assessment of all of their internal processes, which should include the following steps.
Provision 5 applies to food handlers, stating that anyone in this role with a “disease likely to be transmitted through food” or conditions like a skin infection, diarrhoea, sores or an infected wound, should not be allowed to handle food whilst they present a health risk. This helps to reduce the risk of disease transmission by ensuring that people with infectious conditions or illnesses are not handling and exposing food to harmful pathogens.
Chapter 1, Schedule 1 of the regulations outlines general rules of hygiene and safety measures that should be followed in a business. This includes things like:
Chapter 2 provides specific advice for how businesses can perform their duties under food safety law in regards to how rooms in a premises should be maintained and designed. This includes things like keeping floors and surfaces clean and maintained, choosing fixtures, windows and designs that don’t easily accumulate dirt, providing facilities to clean equipment, and providing facilities to wash food, where necessary.
Chapter 3 gives advice for food businesses that are temporary premises, such as a stall or a food van, and outlines what these premises must have in order to allow good food hygiene to be practised. Chapter 4 outlines how food transportation can be done in a way that does not present a food hygiene risk, such as using specific containers and keeping products separate to avoid contamination.
In Chapter 5, the Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 explains how any equipment purchased and used by the business must be easy to clean or constructed in a way that doesn’t present a food hygiene risk. Chapter 6 covers food waste and states that businesses must ensure that their waste is disposed of regularly and correctly so that it does not become a health hazard.
Chapter 7 makes it a requirement for food businesses to have access to a supply of clean water, which ensures that food can be properly cleaned and things like ice and steam can be used without risking contamination. Chapter 8 covers the topic of personal hygiene, and states that “every person working in a food handling area shall maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and shall wear suitable, clean and, where appropriate, protective clothing”.
Chapter 9 explains that food businesses should not accept and serve any food products that they know to be contaminated and should ensure that their products and ingredients are stored in a way that prevents harmful pathogens from growing. Any substances that are hazardous and not suitable for consumption must be stored away from ingredients, and all products must be stored in a way that prevents the risk of contamination.
Finally, Chapter 10 states that any employee who handles food must be trained to an appropriate level of food hygiene awareness so that they understand the principles of food safety, sanitation and the importance of good personal hygiene. The regulation states that employers must ensure that all food handlers are supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene matters to a level appropriate to their job.
While there are types of training that are mandatory for food handlers, employers can also opt for additional training so that they provide the best possible service. If you’re looking for additional online training, we offer a range of courses in food and drink safety that are ideal for employees and employers working in food businesses.
Failure to comply with food health and safety regulations could result in damaging fines, the closing of a business and in some cases, imprisonment. But this shouldn’t be the only worry for employers.
Food safety is something that all businesses and food handlers must take seriously. If employees are placed in an environment that is unsafe because regulations have not been followed, not only could the employer face imprisonment, but staff could be in danger of harm or, in the worst case, death.
Employers are directly responsible for complying with all food safety regulations affecting their business and getting it wrong can be fatal, with some very costly repercussions. Not only is improving the food safety culture about obeying the law, but it is also about being socially responsible. You have a duty to provide food that isn’t going to harm your customers so that everyone can safely access food that isn’t going to make them ill, and following food safety procedures will ensure this.
Food safety procedures that are used in businesses are modelled on a range of different regulations and pieces of official guidance. The Food Safety Regulations 1995 is one of these, but other commonly referenced pieces of legislation include The Food Standards Act 1999 and The Food Safety Act 1990.
The Food Standards Agency is the official agency that is responsible for enforcing food safety regulations and ensuring that high standards of food hygiene are being maintained amongst all of the businesses involved in the food production chain. Whilst this agency shares official guidance and is the overarching governing body, local authorities and health and safety departments may be required to deal with individual cases where a business may not be complying with food health and safety regulations, unless it’s a very severe case.
The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 are one of the key safety regulations that apply to people and businesses that handle food as part of their role. Other relevant regulations that cover food handling include The Food Safety Act 1990, The General Food Law (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013.
The safety of employees is always something that must be considered carefully. Under The Food Safety Regulations 1995, staff safety is ensured with a compulsory assessment of risk and the maintenance of equipment and premises. It’s also ensured by providing appropriate training so that the people who work for a food business understand the risks that they are exposing themselves and others to, and know how to prevent and avoid these to stay safe.
If you’re looking for staff training resources, Virtual College has a range of courses available that relate to food safety and hygiene, which can be easily accessed and completed at a time and place suited to the learner. Take a look at our food hygiene courses and browse the different options that we have available.