Last updated: 11.02.19

What Does The Food Act 1990 Apply To?

What is the Food Safety Act 1990?

Here in the United Kingdom, we’re able to enjoy high standards of food safety and quality, whether we prepare food at home for ourselves, purchase it ready-to-eat from a supermarket, or are served it at a restaurant. But of course, this doesn’t happen on its own. We have several important laws in this country that guide the way that food is manufactured, presented and served to ensure that it’s safe. One of these is the Food Safety Act 1990, which is intended as the framework for all food law in England, Wales and Scotland. In this article, we’re going to look at what it applies to and what it means.

Background of the law

The Act was made law in 1990, and it provides a broad framework for all of the major details of food safety law in the United Kingdom. However, it is not the only law that we need to be aware of, and in many instances, it has been superseded and expanded upon. Food hygiene for instance, which more specifically deals with foodborne illnesses comes under the Food Hygiene Regulations 2006, though these regulations are allowed for under powers given by the Food Safety Act. We must also keep in mind that many regulations in this country are informed directly by EU law. This is the case here too, with the General Food Law Regulation (Regulation (EC) 178/2002), which was adopted in 2005.

In short, the Food Safety Act 1990 is a very important piece of legislation, and we’re going to cover the key points of it here, but there are other legal issues to consider - it’s not the only piece of legislation to be aware of.

Who does the act apply to?

Quite simply, the Act applies to all businesses in the country that deal with food. This includes businesses at the very start of the production chain, right through to catering. Whether your business prepares raw ingredients that are eventually intended for human consumption, or it serves food intended to be eaten there and then, this Act applies. There are very few exceptions.

What does the act cover?

The Act applies to most food related activities that businesses engage in, ranging from preparing, to storing, handling, labelling and even transporting. As previously mentioned however, it’s very important to be aware that certain activities will have additional food law placed upon them. Labelling for example is also covered under the Food Labelling Regulations 2006.

What are the three key elements of the Food Safety Act 1990?

There are three key elements to the Food Safety Act 1990, for which businesses have responsibility and they are the following:

Element 1: Food must not damage the health of anyone eating it.

This is the most important issue covered by the Act and means that anyone dealing with the food must not add or remove items to or from the food that might cause harm, and the food itself must be treated in such a way that it doesn’t pose a health hazard. This covers all manner of issues, from storing the food properly so that it doesn’t become mixed up, to cooking it properly so that harmful bacteria are killed. The Act does allow for fairly severe punishments for businesses that fail on this account.

Element 2: Food should be of the quality and standard that we would expect in this country.

That means that it cannot be poorly prepared or outside the norms of what food labelling would suggest.

Element 3: The food labelling or presentation cannot be in any way misleading.

 This is very important. We all want to know what we’re buying, but for some people it’s a serious health matter. Those with allergies for example need to be able to know exactly what they’re buying and consuming, so presentation and labelling must be completely accurate.

For more information about the food safety regulations that apply to those working with food in the UK, then consider taking one of the popular food hygiene courses. These cover the major laws applicable to those working in kitchens, food production facilities and more. Find out what Virtual College can offer in this regard by browsing our online courses, which can be found here.

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