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Last updated: 13.04.17

Food safety: What are my responsibilities?

When it comes to food safety it is important that employers and employees understand their responsibilities. Here we take a look at legislation in food safety and hygiene.

Over the years, there have been many changes to legislation in food hygiene, especially as technology advances. Nevertheless, any business that deals in food must ensure that food is safe to eat, that it is at the level of quality you claim it to be and that you don’t mislead customers by the way food is labelled, advertised or marketed.

Those working in the food industry must also make sure that nothing is added to a food product in a way that makes it harmful to eat. In addition to this, and according to the government, companies must also keep records on where they got food from and show this information on demand, withdraw unsafe food and complete an incident report, and tell people why food has been withdrawn or recalled.

Here we take a look at current food legislation and how this has altered over the years.

Food safety and hygiene

For those striving for best practice when it comes to food additives, only approved additives that don’t exceed the maximum permitted level can be used in foods. Today’s legislation means that if you run a food business then usually you will have to write a strategy based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles so that your food is kept safe from biological, chemical and physical hazards.

Food contaminated with bacteria such as E.coli O157 and campylobacter or salmonella, can be dangerous and cause serious health problems.

Any material or packaging that is expected to come into contact with food is referred to as ‘food contact materials’ and often includes packaging, processing equipment, cookware and work surfaces. So that food is safe for consumption, food professionals are required to ensure food contact materials don’t transfer anything or change the food they touch. Should these foods be infected, businesses must be able to show where the food contact materials have come from.

Allergies and inspections

To ensure employees are well trained in food hygiene, they must receive a good level of training. Employers are responsible for training their staff which must include how to manage food allergies when preparing and selling food.

At any point in the food production and distribution process, a business or organisation can be inspected to see if it is following the Food Law Code of Practice. The regularity of your inspection depends on the amount of risk your business poses to public health. For example, if you’re a member of a well-known assurance scheme then it is likely that you will not be inspected as often whereas if you are a food retailer or caterer you will be inspected regularly to ensure you are complying with the law.

An inspection can include an analysis of food, records, premises and procedures, with food samples taken as well as photographed. Following the inspection, you will be sent a letter that outlines any improvements you must make and by when. It is important that you let the inspector know when these improvements have been made.

If your business has serious food safety problems you will be sent a notice which could ban you from using particular equipment or processes until your standards have been improved. You will then be revisited once these improvements have been made.

If you are an employee of a food business and you think the food you are selling is unsafe then you must report it to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

We have many great resources to help make sure you maintain high food safety standards, such as our food premises self-inspection checklist, our HACCP cleaning schedule as well as an infographic on how to store food safely.


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