If you’re running a small food business for the first time, whether it’s a kiosk, café, or restaurant, it’s important that you know how to handle, store, and serve the food that you sell without contamination.
Following EU law and legislation regarding food standards is a good place to start, so you can help to keep your customers safe and free from any allergens that are within the foods you regularly serve. Erudus, a company that stores and shares food labelling information within a data pool for customers’ benefit, based on the 14 major food allergens has helped to put together this start-up guide for those aiming to run their own small food business:
Before you begin
When running your business from home, or within allocated premises, you should inform the environmental health service 28 days before you are ready to start serving the public. Don’t worry, registration is free. Just remember that if you have more than one premises then you’ll need to register them all, even after you have registered one under the same name.
Presenting your foods to customers
Food that is sold by your business should never mislead consumers; the labelling, advertising, and presentation should also not mislead the customer, which is stipulated by Article 16 of The General Food Law Regulation (EC) 178/2002. Labelling should clearly stipulate the product for sale, as well as address any allergen information contained within the food on the packaging.
Tracing your food
Article 18 of The General Food Law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 stipulates that all food businesses need to keep records of the foods, food substances, and food producing animals that have contributed towards the foods that you eventually sell. A food business should also state when and where they have supplied other businesses with produce, if they have done so. This information should be stored until the necessary authorities require it, should they ever need it.
Assessing your suppliers
The suppliers that you use will have an impact upon the quality and safety of the foods that you sell. By checking produce carefully, you should aim to ensure that all the produce that you receive from a supplier has been stored, processed and handled safely before it is in your care. Some other things that you should consider when food is delivered to your business are as follows:
- Are chilled and frozen foods cold enough?
- Is the packaging damaged?
- Is it what you ordered?
Based on the foods that you sell, if you are suspicious of any of the foods that have been supplied to you, you have the right to reject them. When doing so, you should contact your supplier immediately.
Foods that are contaminated
When cooked foods come into contact with other foods such as raw eggs, meat and poultry, this can cause cross-contamination. This is likely to occur when foods drip onto a clean surface, utensil or food product during the preparation process. As well as this, hands can also spread cross-contamination and bacteria so it’s important that hands are thoroughly cleaned after handling raw food produce. You should also remain aware of the 14 allergens list; you may have customers that have allergens – so you should make sure that you know what foods come into contact with each other when preparing foods to avoid allergen cross-contamination.
Foods should always be labelled correctly, which will ensure that they are stored appropriately. When preparing food, stick to the following rules:
- Keep raw meat/poultry and ready-to-eat foods separate at all times, including packaging material for ready-to-eat-food.
- Wash your hands after handling meat/poultry, fish, eggs and unwashed fruit and vegetables.
- Clean and wash work surfaces and equipment before and when handling these foods.
- Prepare and store allergens in different areas of a kitchen and when serving them to the public.
- Keep raw produce below ready-to-eat food in the fridge, or in a different fridge if this is possible.
- Attempt to educate any new members of staff to the business on cross-contamination, allergen contamination and food hygiene.
*This is a collaborative post.