In this chapter
This chapter introduces how employer and food handler responsibilities are dictated by UK and European Union Law, and what powers an Environmental Health Officer has in enforcing this legislation.
The most important food safety regulations in your role:
- The Food Safety Act 1990
- General Food Law Regulation EC 178/2002
- Food Hygiene (HACCP) Regulations Act of 2006
- Food Hygiene Information for Consumers Regulation 1169
- The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013
- The Food Law Code of Practice (2015)
All food handlers must be supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene matters to a level that is appropriate to their job.
A Food Safety Management System (HACCP) must be implemented and records kept demonstrating compliance with the legal regulations.
Businesses must identify steps critical to food safety and ensure adequate procedures are identified, implemented, maintained and reviewed using HACCP principles.
Cost of Poor Food Hygiene
As well as the upset and damage caused to other people and to your reputation you can now face fines or even imprisonment. Depending on the size of your company and the seriousness of the of the offence this can be from £100 right up to an unlimited amount! For individuals these fines are also unlimited and there can be up to 2 years’ custodial sentencing for food hygiene offences with the option to prosecute further under criminal law.
The Law relating to Food Handlers
Food Safety Law states that YOU, as a food handler, MUST:
- Keep yourself and your workplace clean and wear suitable, clean protective clothing
- Store, prepare and display food at safe temperatures
- Do everything possible to protect food from contamination
- Inform your Employer if you have symptoms of a foodborne illness
- Safeguard food so that it does not cause illness or harm
Symptoms of a Foodborne Illness
- Feeling sick (nausea)
- Being sick (vomiting)
- Diarrhoea, which may contain blood or mucus
- Stomach cramps and abdominal (tummy) pains
- A lack of energy and weakness
- A loss of appetite
- A high temperature (fever)
- Aching muscles
The Law also says YOU, as a food handler, MUST NOT:
- Do anything that would expose food to contamination
- Sell food with an expired date mark or food unfit for human consumption
Employers and the Law
Owners and Supervisors of food premises have additional and greater legal responsibilities.
It is your Employer’s responsibility to:
- Register the premises with the Local Authority
- Design, equip and operate premises to prevent contamination
- Ensure there are adequate handwashing facilities and arrangements for personal hygiene
- Ensure all staff are trained and supervised to work hygienically and safely
- Assess food hazards and take action to reduce risks (known as hazard analysis)
- Implement and maintain a Food Safety Management System based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) principles
Powers of the Local Authorities
Every Local Authority in the UK has the power to control the sale of unfit or unsafe food. Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) have the power to enter any food business without notice, to carry out an inspection or to seize samples for investigation.
An EHO may also impose an Improvement Order, close down the business, fine, or even prosecute you. It is illegal to prevent them from gaining access to your premises. Failure to cooperate with an EHO is a criminal offence.
They may also impose a prohibition order on the owner, preventing them from running any other food business for a specified amount of time.
Role of the Environmental Health Officer
Your Environmental Health Officer (EHO) is there to help you. It is their responsibility to ensure that the food you produce and serve to the general public is safe for consumption.
Your EHO’s role is to:
- Carry out routine inspections
- Investigate food poisoning outbreaks
- Investigate food complaints
- Ensure product safety and fitness
- Monitor conditions and hygienic operations
- Ensure compliance with legislation
- Offer advice
- Remove suspect food and have it condemned if proved unsafe
- Prosecute companies and individuals breaking food safety laws
‘Due Diligence’ is a legal term that means taking all reasonable precautions to ensure food is safe. In other words, you have done everything you possibly can to ensure the food you serve is safe.
Undertaking this course is an example of ‘due diligence’, as is keeping written records to show that you have checked that the cooked/chilled food you are producing is cooked to, stored at and served at the correct temperatures.
Examples of Due Diligence
If you see signs of pest activity and report this to your Supervisor, you have shown Due Diligence. If your Supervisor then decides to do nothing about it, any fine from the EHO will be imposed on your Supervisor (or the business) not you.
Similarly, if you have an illness causing you to vomit, and report this to your Supervisor but they insist you attend work, then any fine will be imposed on the Supervisor, not you.
Always remember that the Law is there to protect you and ensure that the food you produce or serve to the general public is safe to eat.
By the end of this chapter you should have developed the following understanding and insights:
- An awareness of the main laws that control the production of food in the UK
- An understanding of food premises, employer and food handler requirements according to law
- An understanding of the legal term Due Diligence and what it means to food handlers
- An understanding of an Environmental Health Officer’s role, responsibilities and powers