What are the regulations?
The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 are supported by European Regulation 852/2004.
Who is affected?
Anyone who owns, manages or works in a food business, apart from those working in primary food production such as harvesting, slaughtering or milking, is affected by these Regulations. They apply to anything from a hot dog van to a five star restaurant, from a village hall where food is prepared to a large supermarket, or to a vending machine.
This is true whether you sell publicly or privately, in a hotel or in a marquee, for profit or for fundraising. The Regulations do not apply to food cooked at home for private consumption. Every process which deals with preparing or selling food can be classed as a food business activity, including:-
Generally, anyone who handles food, or whose actions could affect its safety, must follow the Regulations. This includes people who sell food (whether to retailers or to the public) and anyone who cleans articles or equipment which come into contact with food.
What do they cover?
The Regulations apply to all types of food and drink and their ingredients. But some businesses, generally manufacturers of products of animal origin such as dairies or wholesale fish markets, follow their own product specific regulations
Identifying and controlling food hazards
As the proprietor of a food business, you must:-
- make sure food is supplied or sold in a hygienic way;
- identify food safety hazards;
- know which steps in your activities are critical for food safety;
- ensure safety controls are in place, maintained and reviewed.
The majority of food businesses will require to have a documented food safety management system in place. For catering businesses the 'Safer Food Better Business' pack, published by the Food Standards Agency, which is available in a number of languages, may be ideal. Further information can be obtained by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.
Basic hygiene requirements
The Regulations aim to set out basic hygiene principles and focus on how to identify and control food safety risks at each stage of the process of preparing and selling food.
Rather than simply following a list of rules, the Regulations let you assess the risk to food safety and then apply controls relevant to your own situation. Not all the requirements for the structure and equipment of food premises will apply to you. Some are followed by the words "where appropriate" or "where necessary". For example, one provision states that, "where appropriate" floors must allow surface drainage. But where you have a system to ensure water does not build up, so that there is no risk to food safety, actual floor drains may not be necessary. So there is no absolute requirement to have them.
Basic Requirements for food businesses
Food premises should:-
- be clean and maintained in good repair;
- be designed and constructed to permit good hygiene practices;
- have an adequate supply of potable (drinking) water;
- have suitable controls in place to protect against pests;
- have adequate natural and/or artificial lighting;
- have sufficient natural and/or mechanical ventilation;
- provide clean lavatories which do not lead directly into food rooms;
- have adequate hand washing facilities;
- be provided with adequate drainage.
Rooms where food is prepared, treated or processed should generally have surface finishes which are easy to clean, and where necessary, disinfect. This would, for instance, apply to wall, floor and equipment finishes. The rooms should also have:
- adequate facilities for washing food and equipment;
- adequate facilities for the storage and removal of food waste.
Of course, many of the Regulations are basic minimum hygiene standards which apply to every food business. But how they are applied still depends on the situation. For example, every food premises must be kept clean. But how they are cleaned, and how often, will be different for a manufacturer of ready-to-eat meals than for a bakery selling bread.
Supplies of raw materials
Do not buy or supply any raw materials if you think that even after sorting or processing they could make food unfit for human consumption. Any material which you suspect or know to be infected or contaminated with parasites or foreign substances to this extent should be rejected.
Quality of water in food
There must be an adequate supply of potable (drinking) water, to be used whenever necessary to ensure food is not contaminated. In the vast majority of cases, this is supplied via the public water supply. But if there is any doubt about the quality of a water supply, you should seek advice from your local council Environmental Health Services.
Personal hygiene for food handlers
Anyone who works in a food handling area must maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness. And the way in which they work must also be clean and hygienic. Food handlers must wear clean and, where appropriate, protective over-clothes. Anyone whose work involves handling food should:
- observe good personal hygiene;
- routinely wash their hands when handling food;
- never smoke in food handling areas;
- report any illness (like infected wounds, skin infections, diarrhoea or vomiting) to their manager or supervisor immediately.
If any employee reports that they are suffering from any such illness, the business may have to exclude them from food handling areas. Such action should be taken urgently. If you have any doubt about the need to exclude, you should seek urgent medical advice or consult your local council Environmental Health Services.
Preventing food contamination
Food handlers must protect food and ingredients against contamination which is likely to render them unfit for human consumption or a health hazard. For example, uncooked poultry should not contaminate ready-to-eat foods, either through direct contact or through work surfaces or equipment.
Training And supervising food handlers
Food handlers must receive adequate supervision, instruction and/or training in food hygiene. Each food business must decide what training or supervision their food handlers need by identifying the areas of their work most likely to affect food hygiene. Useful guidance may be found in relevant Industry Guides to Good Hygiene Practice.
Temporary and occasional food businesses
Many of the guidelines apply equally to food businesses trading from temporary or occasional locations like marquees or stalls. But because not all of them will be practical, there are also some slightly different requirements.
However, wherever food is sold, two basic rules always apply:-
- there should be adequate facilities to prepare and serve food safely; and
- food handling procedures should avoid exposing food to risk of any contamination.
Industry guides to good hygiene practice
The voluntary industry guides to good hygiene practice are currently being updated to take into account the changes to legislation.
Although these Guides are not legally binding like the Regulations, they help you assess how well you are following the Regulations and provide invaluable advice on food safety. Importantly, enforcement officers will refer to them when examining how businesses are operating.