What do you need to know?
Let’s be honest – if we want a night off from cooking dinner, we want to be sure that the food we’re bringing into our homes is from somewhere where staff take as much care as we would over its preparation and cooking. In order to make that happen, any business which prepares food is subject to strict rules and regulations, and this regulation of safety and hygiene is down to the Food Standards Agency in the UK, who carry out unannounced inspections on all companies who make food their business.
While there’s no law which states that food handlers must have a formal qualification in food hygiene, it’s becoming more commonplace for employers within the food trade to insist that their workforce do. Some local councils even provide training for food workers. Employees may take a course, study themselves, or just have on the job training – whichever method works best for them, as long as the business owner can prove that their staff have received supervision and instruction.
You’re bound to have noticed the food hygiene rating stickers when you’ve visited a shop which sells food. If you sell food directly to the public, the law says that you must display this sticker at all times. Great news if you’ve been rated 5/5, but not so good if you’ve scored 1 or 0!
If a customer has been unlucky enough to have suffered food poisoning, it’s likely that the infection will fall into one of the five most common types.
1) Campylobacter, as a result of uncooked or undercooked meat.
2) Salmonella, from contaminated eggs, milk or dairy.
3) Listeria, which can be found in soft cheeses, and is especially dangerous for pregnant women.
4) E.coli, from beef or unpasteurised milk, which can be harmless in small doses, but in larger quantities can cause serious illness.
5) Norovirus, a nasty vomiting bug which can be caught from shellfish such as oysters.
So, how can a business reduce the risks? Anyone involved in food preparation will be able to tell you about the 4 Cs of food prep; cleaning, cooking, cross contamination, and chilling. In longer terms, these rules entail keeping work areas hygienically clean, cooking all food thoroughly, avoiding contaminating products with potentially dangerous items (such as using a chopping board for both meat and vegetables), and keeping food chilled to preserve it safely.
If you’re a business owner, it really does pay to keep your staff as aware of the health and safety regulations as you are, because you never know when the men from the Food Standards Agency will turn up with a book of window stickers, which could see your business becoming the most popular place in town, or somewhere to avoid like the plague.