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Last updated: 16.08.17

The Food Safety Act 1990: A guide for businesses

What is the Food Safety Act 1990?

The safety of food should be a main concern for food businesses. In today’s world, consumers deserve to have confidence that food they are served is what they expect and won’t cause them any harm, as well as know they are protected from fraud.

While food legislation affects people across the country, it is those working in production, processing, storage, distribution and sale of food that the Food Safety Act 1990 particularly applies and is relevant to.

What are my main responsibilities?

Under the Food Safety Act 1990, businesses have three main responsibilities, which are:

  1. Ensuring you do not include or remove anything from food or treat food in a way that means it would be damaging to the health of those eating it.
  2. Ensuring that food served or sold is of the nature, substance or quality of which consumers would expect.
  3. Ensuring food is labelled, advertised and presented in a way that isn’t false or misleading to others.

What does the Act cover?

According to the government’s facts guide, the Act covers all operations involved in selling and possessing with a value to sale, free supply in the course of a business, consigning and delivering, preparing, presentation and labelling, storing, transporting, and importing and exporting food.

While the Act does not directly cover hygiene, this is because there is separate legislation in regards to this which was created using the powers given under the Food Safety Act 1990. However, it does cover food prepared by childminders in their homes for other people’s children and extends to activities such as preparation of food in canteens, clubs, schools, hospitals, institutions and public and local authorities.

What does it mean for food importers?

Despite the UK having voted to leave the European Union (EU), the rules and regulations that apply to the EU still apply to the UK until it has actually left. Changes to this legislation will be discussed as part of the Brexit negotiations.

Until then, the UK remains part of the EU’s single market which means there are currently no import controls at borders on food being brought in from other Member States. However, importers of food from countries outside of the EU do have to comply with the requirements of EU food law.

Any food that is imported must meet food safety and hygiene requirements equivalent to those for UK-produced food and, according to the government, can be subject to checks by enforcement authorities at points of import and inland.

What does the Act require businesses to do?

In short, food businesses must ensure food does not compromise a person’s health, and that it is of the nature, substance, and quality demanded by the purchaser’s prejudice. Food businesses must also make sure they don't falsely describe or present food to customers.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) states that:

“The day-to-day work of enforcement is, in the main, the responsibility of environmental health practitioners and trading standards officers from local (food) authorities.

“We enforce some regulations made under the Act (for example, licensing of irradiated food facilities) and have scope to become involved in certain emergency situations or where a local authority fails to discharge its responsibilities under the Act.”

Virtual College is a market leader in food hygiene courses and food safety training, with a strong presence in the food and hospitality sector. If you own a food business and want to train your workforce, click here to browse our food safety and hygiene courses now.

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