What is food safety and hygiene? How do you begin to adhere to food safety legislation correctly? Is there a right and wrong way to learn?
If you have questions about food safety and hygiene—you’re not alone.
That’s why we’ve created this guide to answer your most pressing questions and help you embrace and implement food safety and hygiene measures that could transform your business and enhance your relationship with your customers.
It sounds like a big deal. That’s because it is!
What is Food Safety and Hygiene?
To begin, let’s take a look at an important but often confusing matter: what Food Safety is and what Food Hygiene is – there’s a big difference between them both!
Let us begin.
The Definition of Food Safety
Food Safety is the overarching process that focuses on keeping food safe and hygienic to eat. It covers everything that you should implement in a catering business to reduce or remove the risk of food poisoning.
From the knowledge and understanding of why and how food can be unsafe through to all of the risks, good practices and essential countermeasures you must take if you are handling food in any capacity.
The Definition of Food Hygiene
Food Hygiene is one of the fundamental ‘good practices’ you must follow when you are catering – to attain food safety.
It forms one of the three areas that the Food Standards Agency and all Food Safety legislation focus on is as a preventative measure of the risks associated with food safety.
Food hygiene incorporates the safe storage, preparation and cooking of food and focuses on:
- Maintaining appropriate personal hygiene
- Preventing cross-contamination.
- Cleaning and sanitising procedures.
- Controlling allergens.
- Storing food safely and appropriately.
- Temperature management and control.
What’s The Difference Between Food Hygiene and Food Safety?
It’s easy to see why, or how you might not know the difference between food hygiene and food safety, but there’s a big difference.
Food Safety is a complete system for ensuring that food is safe and managing or eliminating the risks associated with food.
In contrast, Food Hygiene is one of the three primary practices or pillars that contribute to the system of food safety.
Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations (UK)
Because of the high risk associated with food safety and hygiene, the food safety and hygiene regulations in the UK are stringent and thoroughly enforced by The Food Standards Agency, or Food Standards Scotland*.
The Food Safety Act 1990 is the primary legislation for all food safety laws across the whole of the UK.
*The Food Standards Agency is the governing body in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Food Standards Scotland takes care of Scotland in the same manner.
Both agencies work with businesses, and local authorities to help everybody uphold The Food Safety Act 1990. They work with and support enterprises, but if necessary, they will, and have, the power to enforce the law.
There are three main areas of focus that the Food Standards agencies focus on, all of which fully cover the Food Safety Act requirements, these are:
- Hygienic food handling.
- The physical condition of the business.
- Food management systems.
You can see how the Food Standards agencies attention aligns with the law when you understand the fundamental pillars of the Food Safety Act.
Under the Food Safety Act, if you are a catering business, you will need to:
Implement Robust and Reliable Food Management Systems: A food management system ensures that food safety and hygiene is implemented throughout the business- by reducing the risk of cross-contamination and implementing the correct labelling systems and records.
Such records relate to the supply and delivery, traceability of the food, staff training, and temperature control.
Follow Safe Hygiene Practices: This area of the food safety and hygiene legislation focuses on personal hygiene: how you handle the food safely, cleaning procedures, storage, cooking temperatures, and again, the prevention of cross-contamination.
Maintain Hygienic Premises: You can have the best food handling practices out there, but if your premises are not hygienic you’ll never keep the food safe! This area of the law covers the upkeep and cleanliness of the building, waste management, adequate ventilation, pest control, and whether there is suitable lighting. Using these three pillars as a guide is a great way to bring your attention to what is important when you are focusing on food safety in a catering business.
Why Food Safety And Hygiene Is Important For Catering Businesses
Food safety and hygiene are vital for all catering businesses because unsafe food is a high risk to the health of your patrons.
A simple strategy for handwashing might be all you need to prevent somebody from experiencing severe health problems from food poisoning.
Here are some other reasons why food safety and hygiene is essential:
1. For Legal Reasons
It’s a legal requirement for all catering businesses to follow the food safety legislation.
In the UK, you cannot serve food if you do not adhere to the legislation and work with the Food Standards agencies.
Make no mistake. If there is a severe case of food poisoning, requiring medical attention, the Food Standards agencies will follow up and trace the source.
2. Keep Your Customers Safe
There are many ways that bacteria can spread in food to dangerous levels. If you’ve ever experienced a mild degree of food poisoning at any time in your life, you’ll know that it is not pleasant, and the symptoms you experience are not so ‘mild’.
Can you imagine if these symptoms become worse, or if somebody ‘at risk’ is exposed to this level of suffering? We’ll share it with you – it can lead to severe illness and even death.
The difficulty is, it’s hard to know if the food is unsafe, mainly because in many cases, you can’t identify the hazard by sight or smell. The only way to keep food safe is to follow strict and safe protocols as laid out in food safety and hygiene regulations.
3. Maintain A Reputable Business
If your food safety and hygiene standards are sloppy, you can be sure that you’ll lose customers and any new customers you gain may never return again. Which means that your business and marketing costs will increase.
Poor standards will lead to a vicious cycle of more problems, fewer customers and an ever decreasing reputation that eventually will be difficult to recover from financially.
It’s not proper business management to set up a catering business without upholding your food safety and hygiene standards.
How to Obtain Food Safety and Hygiene Certification for a Catering Business
Obtaining a food safety and hygiene certificate for your catering career or business is relatively simple – there are courses you can take online that will fit the legal requirements for handling food. A Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate is the course you should look out for.
If you work in catering, food safety and hygiene should be one of the cornerstones of your business or career. It’s as essential that you know how to keep food safe, and practice what you know as it is to cook good, tasty food.