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Protecting your customers and your business

Food safety is, of course, essential in the hospitality industry. However with incidents of food poisoning still unacceptably high, Frank Post, Executive Director of Commercial Services for the CIEH, urges all operators to ensure their food safety standards leave nothing to chance and that all members of staff are fully trained in this regard.

Not surprisingly, it is a legal requirement that if you sell food, it must be safe for consumption. Failure to comply can, at best, result in a customer becoming ill and possible negative publicity or, at worst, death, the loss of your business and a custodial sentence.

You might think that in the 21st Century we would have cracked food poisoning, but sadly you would be mistaken. While the UK has one of the best food safety systems in the world, in 2014 the Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimated there were around a million cases of food poisoning a year and there is no evidence that numbers have gone down significantly since.

The FSA has also estimated that, in 2010, the economic burden in England and Wales resulting from food poisoning was around £1544 million – taking into account issues such as health service costs, loss of working days and loss of business income.

Food PoisoningKeeping on the right side of the law

The private equity model tends to rely upon investing Before a food business can start trading, it has to be registered with its local council. This will trigger an inspection – no doubt the first of many down the years to ensure that food premises remain safe for the general public.

Believe it or not, the inspector is not out to get you. They are there to ensure that your business is operating soundly and to offer advice when required.

Generally, there are three parts to an inspection:

  • A review of your food safety management system

    Inspectors will want to know how food safety management system applies to the food you produce and will want to see your records. Choice of the management system is up to the business owner, but it must be suitable for the type and volume of food produced.

    For a very small business, the FSA’s Safer Food Better Business system may be suitable and is free to download.

  • Inspection of prep areas

    The inspector will want to walk around your kitchen to see if the layout of the preparation areas allows for good hygienic practice, such as facilities to avoid cross-contamination and sufficient equipment for food processing e.g. refrigerators.

  • Safe practice

    The most important part of the inspection is talking to staff to check that the safe practices identified in the food safety management system are being carried out.

After an inspection, the inspector will discuss the findings with the owner and explain what needs to be done to correct any problems. If there are serious problems the inspector may serve an Improvement Notice, which requires certain action in a specified period. Where there is a serious risk to health, a Prohibition Notice might be served. This could close the business down or prohibit the use of a piece of equipment, such as a faulty refrigerator.

Food hygiene rating

The findings of the inspection are used to produce the food hygiene rating for the business. There is good evidence to show that customers favour businesses with high ratings – a 5 or a 4 – and are reluctant to use low-rated premises.

Receiving a good rating is very important for business and will become even more so if display of ratings becomes mandatory in England. It already is in Wales.

Traing your staffStaff training

Training of staff plays a key part in getting things right. You need to choose your training carefully to ensure that it is good quality and provides value for money. If you choose accredited training it should meet these requirements

You also need to consider the type and level of training that will suit your business best. For food handlers this might be e-learning, which is flexible and cost effective, while managers and supervisors could benefit from higher level training with face-to-face delivery.

Of course, once staff have been trained, it is important to make sure that they put what they have learnt into practice and are regularly updated.

Help is at hand

To help caterers further, the British Hospitality Association, supported by the FSA, has launched a new practical guide that explains exactly what is required to comply with the law. The Industry Guide to Good Hygiene Practice: Catering is an essential, low-cost reference for the industry and is likely to be used as a benchmark by food inspectors. For further information, visit: www.bha.org.uk/industry-guide-goodhygiene- practice/

Our message is clear, good food safety is of the utmost importance. All food businesses, including caterers, are responsible by law for ensuring food safety. Food inspectors are not the enemy – they are there to help businesses comply with the law and to protect consumers.

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