Food safety & labeling
From time-to-time concerns around food safety or a change in regulations will make the national news. However, there are many smaller incidences and changes which occur each week.
Operating during the COVID-19 pandemic
Official UK government advice, specifically tailored to the food industry, on how to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.
Brexit & your Community Food Enterprise
Starting your Community Food Enterprise
Ensuring your food business is legally compliant from the start is essential.
Also available as a downloadable PDF, this webpage takes you through all the legal things you need to know when starting a food business in the UK:
- Registering your business
- Risk Assessments
- Food Hygiene
- Allergen Management
- Selling Food Online
- Food Delivery
Community food hubs which act as wholesalers only may find this downloadable PDF, specifically aimed at selling food online more useful. Included in the document are your responsibilities as an online food retailer as well as food labeling requirements.
Food labeling & allergens
All food sold by your community food enterprise, be it pre-packed or unpackaged, there are minimum standards for labeling which must be adhered to.
Also available as a downloadable PDF, we recommend you visit (and bookmark) the Food Standards Agency webpage about food labeling.
Information covered on the page includes:
- Requirements for packaged foods
- Requirements for ‘loose’ (unpacked) food
- Requirements for the labels themselves (eg. font, size and clarity)
- Food authenticity (ensuring that the description of a food product is not misleading)
For product-specific labeling and composition requirements, see this government webpage.
As a business which retails food online, all information legally required to be present on a physical label (ingredients, allergens, QUID, weight/volume, storage/handling instructions, durability, batch number, contact details of the producer, country of origin, instructions for use (eg. heat well through), alcoholic content… etc) must be available for the customer to view online prior to sale.
All food businesses are legally required to:
- Provide the customer accurate allergen information for all foods (prepacked or ‘loose’)
- Handle and manage allergens appropriately in food preparation (to prevent cross contamination)
Also available as a downloadable PDF, we recommend you visit (and bookmark) the Food Standards Agency webpage about allergen management.
Information covered on the page includes:
Foods which are labeled as ‘free-from …’ must be suitable for all individuals with an allergy or intolerance to the ingredient in question (nuts, gluten… etc). There can be no risk of cross contamination in these products.
For instance, if a cake is made with gluten-free ingredients in a kitchen (commercial or domestic) which also handles wheat flour then the cake can not be labeled or advertised as a ‘gluten-free cake’.
More advice from the UK Food and Drinks Federation on labeling food as allergen-free or vegan can be found here.
An item of food is legally defined as being ‘prepacked’ when it is:
- Either partially or fully enclosed by the packaging
- Can not be altered without opening or changing the packaging
- Is ready for sale.
QUID (Quantitative Ingredients Declaration
When an ingredient is specifically highlighted by a product’s name, description or its label then the percentage content of that ingredient must be stated.
Some examples include:
- ‘Apple Pie’ This should state the percentage of apple it contains
- ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ This should state the percentage of lamb it contains (since lamb is the commonly associated meat in a Shepherd’s Pie)
Full information about QUID and the circumstances under which it is legally required can be found here.
The 4C’s of food hygiene
These are Cleanliness, Cooking, Chilling and Cross Contamination.
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP)
A HACCP is a food safety and risk assessment document. Local authorities will require to see evidence of risk assessment documentation when you register your business. This document is not only needed when you set up, but should be updated if you change your working practices over time.
The format of a HACCP helps you think through in advance:
- What are the possible things which could go wrong (hazards)
- At which areas or points in your business are these hazards most likely to occur (critical points)
- If something does go wrong, what is your policy
- Procedures (and recording these procedures on a daily basis) to minimise risks.
MyHACCP– a free online tool to help you write a HACCP for your food enterprise.
Community cooking & food banks
- Does your food enterprise cook meals or prepare food for those in need in your local community?
- Perhaps you have a Community Kitchen for those without access to cooking equipment at home to use?
If so, hygiene advice and the legal requirements for donating food can be found here.
Read more about the 4C’s of Food hygiene (Cleaning, Cooking, Chilling, Cross Contamination) here.
Distance selling (ie. selling food online)
Retailing food on the OFN platform comes under the legal remit of ‘distance selling’. This means that the customer is not able to hold the food item in their hand or physically see it prior to purchase.
- Information on the law (the consumer rights and vendor requirements) surrounding online sales in the UK can be found .
- Advice for food businesses retailing online can be found here.
- We recommend for online food businesses starting off on the platform.
Safer Food, Better Business (SFBB)
Downloadable resources, including training and record keeping, for small businesses in the food industry.
The Food Standards Act 1999, Food Safety Act 1990 and Food Safety Order 1991 are explained here, along with other food-related legislation.