Food Safety Management: What can go wrong?
Food safety management is paramount to a businesses reputation and success but what happens when an aspect of the production, presentation or delivery of food does not meet industry standards?
Food safety management must comply with internationally recognised safety measures known as the HACCP principles. The Food Safety Act 1990 governs food safety in the UK.
The Food Safety Act stipulates that establishments providing food must ensure, among other things, that the food is presented, labelled and advertised in a clear manner, without being misleading, the food provided must be of the quality and standard expected by the consumer, no substance must be added to the food or treatment given to the processing which may be injurious to the health of the consumer. Food must be prepared in a hygienic and commercial environment. Food premises must be registered and licensed with the FSA.
Businesses providing food are subject to visits from environmental health officers from the local authority. These visits can be prompted by a customer complaint or by an unspecified time lapse since the last visit. Environmental health officers have the right to take samples of the food in order to have them assessed and analysed. They are able to have access to food production and supply areas at any time.
The Local Authority are able to carry out the following measures if standards are not met:
An Improvement Notice can be provided.
This points out the failures of the particular establishment to meet the legislation. The requirements to rectify these failures will be stipulated and a time frame will be set in order to do so. It is a criminal offence not to comply with the notice.
An Emergency Hygiene Prohibition Order
This effectively closes down the business or areas of the business immediately. Equipment may be condemned or an aspect of processing halted. This is used if there is imminent risk to public health, such as rat infestation or the prospect of injury to staff or the public if the building or a piece of equipment is dangerous.
This occurs in the most serious cases where a business has repeatedly failed to meet standards. An individual may be fined up to £5,000 in a magistrates’ court but if the matter is taken to the crown court there is the prospect of an unlimited fine and or a maximum prison sentence of two years.
Meeting standards and presenting food efficiently, safely and effectively demonstates a companies competancy and maintains its reputation. It is therefore essential to ensure that food safety management procedures are in place; that standards are regularly scrutinised and assessed and that training is provided where necessary.