Bacillus cereus

Information adapted from The Safer Food Group: Level 3 Food Safety (Supervisor) course

An aerobic, pathogenic bacteria that produces a heat resistant exotoxin (spore forming).

Description:

Bacillus coagulans is one of the good guys – a bacteria that forms the basis of some probiotic foods. Unfortunately, it has less friendly cousin; Bacillus cereus which causes food poisoning.
Bacillus cereus is a soil-dwelling, spore-forming food poisoning bacteria chiefly associated with cooked rice, as well as other starchy foods including pasta and potatoes. If cooked at less than 100°C, bacterial spores survive and germinate, releasing toxins which cause food poisoning.

Source:

Foods affected include rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals, and spices.

It loves inadequate cooking and poor refrigeration and hates good food hygiene practice. The best way to avoid food poisoning from B. cereus is to avoid reheating rice dishes.

FSA guidelines require cooked rice to be chilled/refrigerated and used within 24 hours.

Symptoms:

Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and occasionally diarrhoea.

Onset time: 1 – 5 hours
Duration: 12 – 24 hours
Carrier Status: None

Controls:

  • Thorough cooking and rapid cooling of food; typically rice is cooked in boiling water – 100°C – for at least 10 minutes.
  • Following cooking, control bacterial multiplication by the reduction of time in the danger zone after cooking, i.e., control of time and temperature during hot holding, and rapid cooling before storage
  • Refrigerated storage at 5°C or less for no longer than 24 hours
  • Avoid reheating rice dishes if possible – if reheating rice is undertaken ensure recommended FSA cooking temperatures and times are achieved.
  • Take care to prevent cross-contamination

Improving staff retention in hospitality

Employment within the hospitality industry is often regarded as a temporary arrangement, both by employees and employers themselves. What can we do to change this view, and why would it help both businesses and the people working within them?

According to a pre-covid survey commissioned by YouGov, staff turnover in the UK hospitality industry averages around 30% – twice as high as the national average. Some of this turnover is accounted for by seasonality of roles – employing temporary staff to cover busier periods – but the industry is often seen as one for young people and students, to tide them over before embarking on their long term career.

The YouGov survey listed key improvements that would be likely to encourage staff to remain including:

  • Better pay and benefits (63%) 
  • More control over work life and shift patterns (55%) 
  • More stable income and guaranteed hours (52%) 
  • Better career prospects (42%) 
  • More transparency from employers regarding shifts/scheduling (32%)

Why retention matters

In the post covid market, running an efficient operation will be a vital factor in the survival of hospitality businesses. Retaining good staff adds to your operating efficiencies by:

  • reducing recruitment costs
  • reducing training costs
  • improving team stability and morale
  • minimising payroll costs and potential salary errors.

By tackling some or all of the staff concerns listed above, you put your business in a better position to retain staff. Let’s look at three of the major concerns, and consider ways to make improvements.

Better working patterns and shifts

The great news is it is relatively cheap, quick and easy to address staff concerns regarding working patterns and shifts. Creating a system that allows staff to access shift information weeks in advance, and gives them regular, fair and predictable working patterns allows staff better control over their own lives and therefore reduces stress. This may encourage job applications from prospective staff who require stability from their employment – such as working parents or those with caring commitments – who would in turn be more likely to remain in a job that suits their lifestyle.

Consider using an online tool to give greater visibility of rotas to staff. Cloud based tools such as Google calendar or Doodle poll provide low cost and easy to use software which allows your team to view and even collaborate with your resource planners to find the best rota solutions for everyone. Organised forward planning is a very low cost, high impact way to improve your team’s working life.

Better career prospects

To offset the perception of hospitality as low skilled, temporary employment, consider creating a clear career path that staff can follow. Think about suitable training to help them increase the right skills as they follow that path – not just functional job related courses such as food hygiene or allergen training, cookery or sommelier courses, but training that incorporates invaluable softer skills, including team work, customer service and leadership skills. A recognised award programme such as the Catering Professional Award demonstrates that you value a team member enough to invest in their development and future, and can actually encourage new staff to seek employment with you.

Creating a defined career path adds to individual and team stability. Once you have a number of staff who have a good career record with you, they will be able to act as mentors for your less experienced staff and will demonstrate the real benefits in staying with you.

Winners of the 2021 ‘Best Pub Employer’ award, Brewhouse & Kitchen, were commended for their team first approach – this included their innovation training programme that was strengthened during the pandemic, reinforcing the importance the pub and microbrewing company places on staff wellbeing.

Better pay and benefits

Paying minimum wage to staff may look sensible in your budget planning, but it can be a false economy. A low wage is most likely to attract staff who are looking for a temporary, stop gap role while they look for something with better conditions. Also consider that they will attach similar value to their role as you do – so if you demonstrate that you consider your staff to have little value in the benefits you provide, your team will think similarly; this will be reflected in the time they spend in role before looking for a new opportunity.

When deciding on a pay and benefits package, do your research. Look at average pay rates of similar businesses in your area and ensure you don’t undervalue your team. Think about the wider package of benefits you offer – such as tips, staff discount, team meals, long service rewards and annual leave – and be clear about these right from the start.

And one last tip – don’t forget to say thank you! We are all human – the impact of being recognised for a job well done, keeping going through a difficult period, or just being a great colleague is huge.

Marketing your credentials – the hidden benefits of staff training

A recent report by the BBC has highlighted concerns expressed by the FSA over newly formed ‘at-home’ food businesses, who fail to register with their local authority. And in turn, this has prompted increasing numbers of consumers to consider whether the food products they buy from small online food operators is actually safe to eat.

Your legal requirements

Remember, food business registration can be as simple as completing an online form via your local authority website, and is a legal requirement for any business that:

  • sells food
  • cooks food
  • stores or handles food
  • prepares food
  • distributes food, including:
    • restaurants, cafes and takeaways
    • catering businesses run from home, B&Bs, mobile catering and temporary businesses
    • marquees, food stalls, food pop ups and food vans
    • nurseries, schools and care homes
    • distance selling, mail order and food delivery including online

Registration as a food business is free in the UK.

As a food business, you are also legally required to ensure that you, and anyone else working with food receives adequate supervision, instruction and/or training in food hygiene for the work that they do.

Use your credentials as marketing tools

As a food professional, how do YOU judge a restaurant’s food safety standards? You know what to look for, so when you are visiting a new food business, you probably check out the FSA Hygiene Star Rating (Food Hygiene Information Scheme rating in Scotland) in the door or window, and seek evidence of staff training certificates once inside.

You can use the same tools to market your online food business. If you are paying for food safety training, as well as nurturing skilled, knowledgeable staff, you should also look for other ways of making a return on your investment; that is to say, use it as a marketing tool. Talk about any training successes you’ve had via your social media accounts and website. This proactive approach shows customers that you care about their safety, and your team’s development.

At The Safer Food Group, we love to see customers celebrating training success. Tag @TheSaferFoodGroup in your social media posts, and we’ll give you a virtual pat on the back – increasing your audience reach and underlining your commitment to producing food safely.

You can also promote your official food hygiene rating – especially effective if you gain a 5 star / Pass rating. The FSA have created a media page and resources to help you advertise your rating virtually – it includes a great little toolkit with some invaluable ideas

You can also provide a link to your official business rating, so your customers can see for themselves – click here for Welsh and English listings and here for Scottish listings

Be proactive – talk about food safety

You might feel uncomfortable talking about food safety on your social media page but remember – it shouldn’t be a taboo subject, and if you uphold high hygiene standards in your business, you should be proud to talk about them. You can guarantee that some of your potential customers want to know – and are too shy to ask – so make it easy for them to choose you!

Spring budget 2021 – latest update

Here are the headline announcements from the Chancellor’s Spring budget:

  • The furlough scheme  will continue until the end of September 2021. In July, employers will be required to pay 10% of wages to employees, increasing to 20% in August and September.
  • Self Employed grants will continue, with one grant to cover the February – April period, and a final one to cover the period from May onwards. An additional 600,000 claimants are now expected to be eligible following submission of February’s tax returns.
  • The National living wage will increase from April
  • A new Restart Grant will be introduced to help closed businesses reopen. Those in non essential retail, currently due to open on April 12th will be eligible of a grant of up £6k.
  • Later opening businesses, including hospitality, hotels, gyms, as well as personal care and leisure firms will receive grants of up to £18k.
  • A new recovery loan scheme will introduced, guaranteed to 80% by the government, offering between £25k and £10m.
  • The business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will continue until the end of June, then rates will be reintroduced at lower interim rate.
  • The 5% reduced VAT rate will continue in the hospitality sectors until September, followed by an interim rate of 12.5% until the end of April 2022.
  • Contactless payments limit increased to £100
  • Personal income tax thresholds will be raised as planned in 2022, and then held until 2026.
  • Alcohol and fuel duties continue to be frozen
  • Corporation tax will increase in 2023. The most profitable companies (profits £250k+) will pay 25% corporation tax, tapering down to 19% for businesses with profits of £50k or less.
  • Companies will be able to carry back losses over three years to enable greater tax rebates for struggling companies.

Visit The Safer Food Group’s website for our budget beating course price reductions on Food Hygiene training

Registering your food business – what’s holding you back?

A recent report by the BBC has highlighted concerns expressed by the FSA over newly formed ‘at-home’ food businesses, who fail to register with their local authority. But what are the rules around registering a food business, and what is holding business owners back from doing so?

“I only sell a few roast dinners once a week – it’s not really a food business”

Food business registration can be as simple as completing an online form via your local authority website, and is a legal requirement for any business that:

  • sells food
  • cooks food
  • stores or handles food
  • prepares food
  • distributes food, including:
    • restaurants, cafes and takeaways
    • catering businesses run from home, B&Bs, mobile catering and temporary businesses
    • marquees, food stalls, food pop ups and food vans
    • nurseries, schools and care homes
    • distance selling, mail order and food delivery including online

“But I only have a small business, I can’t afford to register”

Registration as a food business is free in the UK.


Other costs associated with setting up a new business, such as registration at Companies House and obtaining relevant business insurance are not linked to food business registration. Consider, however, that the penalties and risks (and stress!) you may incur if you don’t tick these boxes far outweigh your initial outlay.

“I’m running my business from my home – if I register, the EHO will visit and will probably close me down”

The Environmental Health team within your local authority are responsible for ensuring that all food businesses within their locality prepare and sell food which is safe for consumers. The most effective way to do this is to build and maintain good working relationships with food businesses – and so it is in their interests, as well as yours, to start communications on the right foot.

Your EHO will want to see that you have considered all aspects of setting up and running a food business safely; the good news is, there are many tools available to help you do so, including specific advice from the Food Standards Agency about setting up a food business at home.

If you are in doubt about any aspect of setting up your business safely, as a registered food business you can approach your EHO for invaluable advice. In short – the EHO is a vital business support person, not the big bad wolf!

“I’m still not sure I understand food safety properly – and I don’t have time to learn!”

Running any kind of business without fundamental skills and knowledge is pretty scary. But the training you need to run a food business safely and confidently- such as food hygiene, allergy awareness, health and safety and HACCP – can be easily accessed, flexible and great value for money. With online training, you can study at a time and place that suits you; and at a pace that works for your skill level and existing knowledge – just check that it is accredited by an appropriate awarding body (such as Qualifi or CIEH) and accepted by your local authority.

If you want to employ staff within your food business, especially if they will be working away from supervision, it is important to know that they have the correct training in place to uphold your standards, even when you’re not there. And demonstrating your credentials to your customers is a great marketing tool – even if you sell your business via local social media channels, people will be reassured to see your training certificates and your Food Hygiene rating

If you have recently started a food business and you’d like to share your experiences of the Food Business registration process, drop a comment below or visit our Facebook page and leave us a comment – we’d love to hear from you! And if you’re just starting out on your journey – good luck, we hope it goes well.

Do I need to register with the ICO?

The ICO, or Information Commissioner’s Office, oversees the safe handling of personal data within companies. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, any organisation that processes personal information must register with the ICO.  While failure to do so is a criminal offence, some organisations may be exempt and may not need to register or ‘notify’ the Information Commissioner’s Office.

What is ‘personal data’?

Personal data is information about individual people, where they live, what they do and more. It’s any and all information that identifies them, including:

  • people’s names and addresses;
  • photographs;
  • customer reference numbers;
  • customer reviews.

If a document, file or image identifies a person, or could be used in combination with other information to identify them, then it’s personal data. This applies even if the information doesn’t include a person’s name.

What does ‘handling personal data’ mean?

Handling personal data means taking any action with someone’s personal data. This begins when a business starts making a record of information about someone, and continues until they no longer need the information and it’s been securely destroyed. If you hold information on someone, it counts as processing even if you don’t do anything else with it.

So, in the example of a fish and chip shop, personal data might include a list of customers’ names, addresses and phone numbers that they use for ordering and delivering food, or images that they record on their CCTV system.

Which businesses are exempt?

Organisations that only processes personal information for:

  • staff administration (including payroll);
  • advertising, marketing and public relations (in connection with their own business activity);
  • accounts and records;

Some not-for-profit organisations;

Organisations that process personal data only for maintaining a public register;

Organisations that do not process personal information on computer.

Does this apply to my business?

You might use personal data in a slightly different way to the examples described above. To check whether your business needs to register with the ICO, follow this link to their self assessment tool and answer the questions…

Natasha’s Law – Are you ready?

Natasha’s Law is due to be implemented in October 2021. An important development in helping prevent the serious effects of food allergies, this law deals with labelling products that have been packed on premises ready for sale.

Who does it affect?

Any business that is preparing, packing and selling food from the same premises, or food that is packed centrally and sold from a mobile stall or vehicle

When does it come into force?

The law comes into force in October 2021 throughout the UK

What foods are covered by the new law?

Any food which is Pre-Packed for Direct Sale (PPDS); that means in-house, wrapped or placed in packaging and then put on display. This could include products like sandwiches, salads, snacks and cakes.

What must we do?

All PPDS products will need to clearly display the name of the food and a full list of all ingredients. Any named allergens (from the 14 named allergens list) must be highlighted within the ingredients list, for example by printing them in bold or a different colour.

What are the penalties for non compliance?

Businesses failing to follow the new rules could face a fine of up to £5,000 per offence.

Any business who is selling or planning to sell pre-packed foods would be sensible to consider their operations and processes now, in order to allow all required changes to be in place and tested before October 2021. As well as considering the physical labelling requirements, food businesses will also need to think about staff training implications. Whilst the new law makes information more readily available and therefore easier for staff to communicate accurate information, a key message for all staff in food preparation is the importance of consistency in and clear communication of ingredients and recipes.

Covid financial business support November 2020

Whilst some green shoots of hope have started to appear – including positive progress on covid vaccines and falling reinfection rates in some UK nations and regions – the hospitality industry continues to feel overwhelming pressure from lockdowns and restrictions. We’ve summarised some of the financial packages still available to support you through this tough period

Job Retention Scheme extended until March 2021

Businesses who are unable to operate as usual may be able to take advantage of furlough payments, allowing them to retain staff for whom no role currently exists, or whose role is reduced. The JRS has been extended into March 2021, with payments of up to 80% of wages, to a maximum of £2,500 throughout November, December and January. The latest iteration of the scheme does not extend to NI and pension payments – these must be covered by the employer – and the funding level for the latter months has not yet been announced.

Employees for whom a JRS claim was NOT previously made can be claimed for in the latest version of the scheme, BUT be aware – from November, claims for each month must be made within 14 days of the end of that month, e.g. claims for November furlough payments must be made by 14th December. This is a much smaller claim window than in preceding months.

Local Restrictions Support grants

The latest allocation of grant funding for businesses was announced earlier this month, with specific provision being made for business whose operations were restricted by their sector or location. Funds are allocated via local councils, but a list of criteria for application is available here

VAT Deferral

If you deferred your VAT payment that was due between 20th March and 30th June 2020, and haven’t yet paid it, your deferred payment is due to be made in full by 31st March 2021. However, a new VAT payment deferral scheme is due to launch early in 2021 that should allow you to make this payment in 11 interest free instalments ending in March 2022, giving a little further breathing space on this debt. You will need to sign up to the scheme as a business, click here for further info.

Bounce Back Loan Scheme

Bounce back loans are government backed loans that are offered to small and medium UK businesses through banks, and are intended to bridge cashflow issues caused by the pandemic.

Loans of up to £50,000 are available dependant on business turnover. The loan term is 6 years, however the first 12 months of interest payments are covered by the government and early repayment is allowed – so in effect, the loan is free to the business if repaid within 12 months. Currently, the BBLS will be available to enter up to 31st January 2021

Because of the nature of these loans and the time limit on access, some businesses have applied for funds as a precautionary measure, keeping them separately from day to day funds, with the intention of paying back before the end of the ‘interest free’ period. As they have proved popular, many financial institutions are only offering them to existing customers, so if you do want to access this loan scheme, it is sensible to approach your own business bank in the first instance.

As with any financial decision, we recommend you talk to your accountant or business adviser before taking advantage of these support schemes, as they will be able to assess the implications and impact on your financial position.

Further reading:

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

For the full and latest tier 1-3 information, see the Government Local Restrictions breakdown

How do I start a food business?

Starting a food business can leave you in a tangle of red tape, unless you know where to start. We’ve outlined the process below and highlighted some things to consider, as well as signposting useful links for the new food business owner.

First things first: Food Business registration

If you are not already registered as a food business, or you are taking over an existing food business from someone else, you must register online with your local authority, before you start trading. It is against the law to trade as a food business without registration – but making yourself known to your local authority gives you access to your local food safety team (including EHOs) who can be a valuable source of support and information when you are setting up.

Food business registration is required by any business which

  • sells food
  • cooks food
  • stores or handles food
  • prepares food
  • distributes food, including:
    • restaurants, cafes and takeaways
    • catering businesses run from home, B&Bs, mobile catering and temporary businesses
    • marquees, food stalls, food pop ups and food vans
    • nurseries, schools and care homes
    • distance selling, mail order and food delivery including online

You will also need to go through the legal process for setting up any kind of business, if you haven’t already done so. Check out the UK Government website, Business Wales, or NI Business Info for details of how to do this. The UK.Gov page also gives details of permits and licences required for mobile food businesses or street trading.

Premises and Facilities

You will need to demonstrate that you have suitable premises and facilities to be able to prepare food safely, including the following:

Premises must be clean, in good repair, and suitable for safe food preparation – for example, secure from pests. Provision must be made for waste disposal that does not encourage pests.

The physical space must be suitable for food preparation, including walls, ceilings and surfaces that are easy to keep clean, without peeling paint or other potential contaminants. Light and ventilation must be adequate.

You must have adequate, separate provision for handwashing, including hot water, and suitable areas for changing into clean work clothes. There must also be adequate facilities for equipment, crockery and cutlery washing and disinfection, and equipment must be in good working order.

For a more complete list of the expectations for premises and facilities, check the FSA’s Setting up a Food Business page

Food Safety

One of a food business operator’s fundamental legal responsibilties is to ensure that their food is safe to eat. Food safety encompasses a range of measures, including:

Creating and using a Food Safety Management, or HACCP, plan. This is a written plan that is used to risk assess, manage and record food preparation processes, from cleaning schedules and supplier records to temperature monitoring and stock rotation.

Being aware of the risks and laws surrounding Food Allergens, and ensuring customers can consume your food without risk of harm from allergenic ingredients.

Managing suppliers, ensuring that they are committed to providing you with food that is safe to eat and ensuring that all of your ingredients can be traced back to their original source.

Ensuring that you and your staff are adequately trained and / or supervised, understand all elements of good food hygiene practice, including how to deal with allergens, and can undertake all necessary tasks in a way which eliminates the risks of unsafe food. Make sure that any training that you undertake is designed for the correct level and staff role – for example, Level 2 Food Hygiene and Allergen training for all food handlers, or those running a very simple food operation, and Level 3 Food Hygiene for those in a managerial or supervisory role. A reputable training provider will be able to supply you with a syllabus and sample of learning material, so you can check it is right for your needs.

Click here for the FSA’s comprehensive list of your food safety responsibilities

The list above may seem daunting, but one really key point to remember, is that there are many resources available to help you. If you have any doubts about setting up and running your food business, seek out advice from your local authority food safety team, and your Environmental Health Officer. They will help you to operate safely, legally and, if you get things right, will be able to award you that all important 5 star rating – good luck!

Further reading:

What is a Food Safety Management System / HACCP?

How do I keep my restaurant Allergy Safe?

How do I turn my café into a takeaway?

How do I turn my café into a takeaway?

Despite the fiercely difficult trading conditions that most food businesses find themselves in, many have changed the way they work to suit the new conditions; turning a sit down food venue into a takeaway business is a great example of this. The CIEH have produced a comprehensive guide of the factors you must consider when adjusting your operations- we run through the topics covered briefly below:

Factors to consider include:

Food business registration – If you are not already registered as a food business with your local authority, or you plan to change your operations significantly (for instance, starting deliveries or delivering to a vulnerable group of people), you must register online. Planning regulations have been relaxed for the foreseeable future, making it easier for businesses to adjust operations.

Allergies and ordering – allergenic ingredients must be declared both at the point of ordering AND at the point of delivery. If you need to update allergy training for you or your team, consider undertaking the Safer Food Group’s Allergy Awareness course.

Food packaging and delivery bags – anything you use to package takeaway food must be fit for purpose – so containers must be food safe and delivery packaging must be capable of keeping food at the correct temperature and able to be disinfected between uses. Remember the Danger Zone from your Food Hygiene training!

Delivery drivers – if offering a delivery service, you must ensure the correct insurance is in place, and that covid safe procedures are carried out during food pick up, drop off and in between deliveries.

Food collection – consider safe procedures to allow your staff to maintain distance from customers, and customers from each other. Use clear signage to indicate what is expected of your customers

Safe food procedures – update your HACCP / SFBB plan to include your new operation and ensure it is fully risk assessed and managed.

Create a covid-safe workplace – if your business has not been open at all during the pandemic, you will need to ensure you have introduced measures such as increased handwashing, distancing between staff, increased cleaning and laundry. Even if you have already introduced measures to eliminate the spread of covid-19, you must undertake a review when making a change to the way you operate.

Communicate with your customers – there is little point in creating a new offering if your customers are unaware of it. Think about the most effective ways of shouting about your new service – and how these might differ when the majority your customers are spending a lot of time in their homes. Tap into local social media pages, community groups and encourage word of mouth recommendations from your regulars. Consider a loyalty scheme, special offers on quiet days – or something that targets a unique feature of your local area, such as a local speciality food, a traditional event or a charity cause that you can support. And don’t forget to say thank you – a personal message from a local business reminds your customers of the human element of your business.

Of course, turning your food operation into a takeaway is not the only option to try and make the most of your business during difficult times. In our latest video, our trainers Jonny and Paul discuss making the most of your resources during lockdown and tiering restrictions. They consider some successful examples of food businesses who have changed the way they work in order to survive lockdown and government restrictions. Have a look here…

Further reading:

The Food Standards Agency has also created useful advice on changing your business model, as part of their ‘Here to Help’ campaign