An introduction to food safety law
There is a lot of legislation underpinning food safety and quite rightly so as if things go wrong it could have serious consequences for your customers. If there is a food poisoning allegation or a customer suffers from an allergic reaction from eating your food you need to know what you must do to follow the rules and stay legal.
As a Chartered Environmental Practitioner I am responsible for supporting and advising food businesses on food safety but also enforcing food safety laws. So when there is a risk to health such as gross contamination or a vermin infestation we have the powers to close these businesses down and protect consumers from getting ill or worse.
I will walk you through the various bits of law that apply to all food businesses. And some specialist areas which may apply depending on what you do.
Please note that the EU regulations have been adopted in the UK following Brexit.
Food Safety Law
The Food Safety Act is the primary piece of food safety legislation in the UK under which the other regulations sit. It gives local government powers for enforcement, outlines the offences and enables the use of the ‘due diligence’ by food businesses. This means taking all reasonable precautions to avoid committing an offence by managing food safety. It includes your food safety management systems and monitoring checks. See my blog Don’t worry about going digital with your monitoring checks .
The responsibilities of food business owners under the act are:
- to ensure you do not include anything in food, remove anything from food or
treat food in any way which means it would be damaging to the health of
people eating it;
- to ensure that the food you serve or sell is of the nature, substance or quality
which consumers would expect;
- to ensure that the food is labelled, advertised and presented in a way that is
not false or misleading.
Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 is an important piece of legislation hleping to protect consumers health. It includes presentation, traceability and recall of food, an applies to all food businesses.
The General Food Regulations 2004 gives additional enforcement powers to officers for amendments to the Food Safety Act to bring it inline with EC Regulation 178/2002
The Food Hygiene and Safety [England] Regulations 2013 helps to protect consumers by giving powers for food officers for food hygiene offences. This includes improvement notices and Hygiene Emergency Prohibition notices and orders served when there is an imminent risk to health to consumers.
The Food Information Regulations 2014 enables enforcement of EU legislation Regulation 1169/2011 on information to consumers including labelling of allergens and nutritional information on pre-packed and non pre-packed food.
Natasha’s Law amended these regulations on 1st October 2021 to include Pre Packed for Direct Sale Food Ten top tips to help you get ready for Natasha’s Law
The Hygiene of Food stuffs regulation details requirements for the general hygiene of food businesses including registration, structure, equipment and personal hygiene. Also in Article 5 it specifies the need for businesses to have a documented Food Safety Management System based on HACCP principles How to get your head around Food Safety Management Systems
The Hygiene Rules for Products of Animal Origin regulation explains what you need to do if your food business handles meat, fish, seafood, eggs etc. including approval unless you are exempt.