Making the most of your festive food

Last minute Christmas cancellations may have left you with more food than you expected this year – don’t forget your food safety training when you’re dealing with leftovers at home.

Storing in the fridge

  • Cool cooked foods quickly. Bring the temperature down within two hours by leaving covered food in a cool area, and then placing in the fridge.
  • Protect cooked food while storing. Keep cooked food well covered, ideally in plastic lidded storage boxes, and away from raw meats.
  • Check your fridge temperature. Make sure your fridge temperature is between 0-5°C and that is not overfilled as this will prevent cool air circulating properly.
  • Use cooked foods within three days of cooking.

Storing in the freezer

  • Cool cooked foods quickly. Bring the temperature down within two hours by leaving covered food in a cool area.
  • Wrap well and label with the contents and the date you place it in the freezer.
  • To defrost, use the microwave defrost setting, or place overnight in fridge, away from raw meats.
  • Ideally, use within three months, as the texture and flavour may start to deteriorate after this.

Reheating leftovers

The key point to remember when storing cooked food is to avoid the DANGER ZONE -that means keeping foods below 8°C or above 63°C, to minimise the chance of bacterial growth.

As long as you follow the rules for storing leftovers safely, they should be good to use up in a new meal. When you reheat, the food will be passing through the Danger Zone, so make sure your food is piping hot before you serve. With a food thermometer, you can check it reaches at least 70°C for two minutes, or 65°C for ten minutes.

To learn more about food safety, in the home or in a catering setting, why not take a Safer Food Group training course? All of our courses are available online, and can be accessed immediately after purchase with a credit or debit card. PDF certificates are available upon successful completion of the course assessment.

Eating well for a happy Christmas

We all know that what we eat plays a significant role in how we feel. So, how do we make the most of Christmas treats whilst still making our bodies feel good? Our nutritionist has given us some easy tips for food that helps us feel good over the festive period

Beat tiredness

Rescue the nut crackers from the back of the drawer; eating a wide variety of nuts and seeds is a great way to boost the nutrients that counteract fatigue and provide an energy lift, including potassium, iron, zinc, B vitamins and folate, and vitamin E. We know that nuts are high in calories – so nuts in shells, often sold in grocers and supermarkets at Christmas are a great choice – because they’re fiddly, you’ll be far more likely to stop after a few. As with any foods, make sure you’re aware of any allergies before you offer nuts to guests.

Keep everything moving

Festive overindulgence can be the cause of constipation, particularly if you are eating a lot of fatty and rich foods that your body is not accustomed to. To get everything moving again, turn to a Christmas dinner favourite that are full of fibre – Brussels Sprouts. You might not persuade the kids to eat these little bundles of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but that will leave even more for you to enjoy!

Stay calm

Let’s face it – we’ve not had an easy year, and for some of us the pressure to create a ‘perfect Christmas’ may feel overwhelming. Some nutrients have been shown to help reduce anxiety – including Omega-3 found in oily fish and Vitamin D found in eggs. So setting yourself up for the big day with a breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs is not just a luxurious treat – it’s a sensible way to take care of yourself.

Fight the bugs

A strong immune system is key to battling the effects of seasonal viruses – and now it’s especially important to help your body look after itself. Look for festive favourite fruit to keep you fighting fit – the satsuma from your Christmas stocking is great, and so are cranberries, made into a home made sauce (not too much sugar!).

If you want to learn more about nutrition, including information on menu planning in a professional setting, have a look at our Level 2 Nutrition course. And from everyone at the Safer Food Group, we wish you all a safe and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

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

Can staff train while furloughed?

The simple answer to this question is – YES! Staff can train while furloughed – in fact, many employers found that the last lockdown was the perfect opportunity to review training records and fill in any gaps whilst staff were unable to work. At a time when staff are feeling uncertain about their future, making a small investment in their development can help to keep them engaged and better prepared for the challenges that face them on their return to work.

Things to consider: If someone does undertake training during furlough, they must receive at least the current minimum wage for those hours. As employees may be earning less than their normal wages whilst they are furloughed, the employer must check that this is the case.

Training must be undertaken in a covid safe way. Online training offers a remote method of delivery, so learners can access in their own homes. Courses that can be undertaken flexibly to suit the learner are useful, as these allow learners to read at their own speed, review elements they find tricky and test their understanding as they progress.

Look for providers that really consider the needs of the learner, in order to deliver effective training – for instance, those who compliment their written course material with video or audio lessons, suiting students who find it difficult to read long passages. Training providers who have put considerable effort into developing learner centred courses will invariably be pleased to talk you through their teaching methods, and present demo material for you to trial. And spending money on effective training provides a far greater return on investment for the employer, if employees can return to work with genuine insight and skills that improve their performance.

Seek a provider that meets the needs of the business too. Some offer tools that allow the training manager or business owner to track their learners’ progress. The SFG business admin panel acts as a staff training record, showing progress of current learners, previous courses requiring renewal, and allowing the business to download staff certificates for display.

A little about the Safer Food Group: our courses are designed around the needs of the food industry and it’s employees. Our courses combine clear, accessible written content with thorough, engaging video presentations, designed to incorporate the benefits of face to face teaching in a cost effective, safe online environment. Our team includes experienced food professionals, experts in education and creative tech developers, working together to meet the training needs of food businesses and manufacturers, chefs and cooks, kitchen supervisors and food handlers.

FREE – Covid-19/Social Distancing Signage (1M UPDATE)

We have created a full set of standard signage to allow you to operate your business within the latest government guidelines during the pandemic and as we start to get back to trading again. Now all artwork has 1m not 2m distancing information shown.

1m version of COVID-19 FREE signage

Simply download the above document and either print on your own printer or supply to a print shop to produce whatever you need for your new processes.
Please note that floor stickers and some other items may need to be produced to specific guidelines to fit with health & safety requirements.

Restarting a food business after a temporary shutdown

A quick internet search will reveal a whole raft of information and advice regarding food business operations during and after the pandemic. This checklist, written by the brilliant team at the Institute of Food Science and Technology, is the most comprehensive and easy to follow list we’ve found.

Restart checklist

Important Links

The IFST Knowledge Hub contains a lot of great resources to consolidate advice, practical guidance and links to resources to support individuals, smaller food businesses and larger food operations

IFST Covid-19 Knowledge Hub

I want to start food deliveries – do I need a license, or special car insurance?

To deliver prepared food / meals to customers, you need to be registered as a food business, via your local authority. If you run an existing food business and want to start delivering food orders, you need to consider any new or different risks posed by this change. You will need to work through your Food Safety Management System* to make sure any food you sell in this way remains safe to eat.

Planning rules were relaxed on 17 March 2020 to allow pubs and restaurants to operate for 12 months as hot food and drinks takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak. However, businesses that do this must tell their local authority when the new use begins and ends.

The Association of British insurers have confirmed that if you are using your personal vehicle to deliver groceries or other essential goods to people, as long as you are not including a delivery charge, you do not need to update your insurance cover.  If you are charging for deliveries, you should contact your insurance provider/ broker to check if they can extend your vehicle insurance to cover home delivery.

*Your Food Safety Management System, sometimes referred to as HACCP, is the system you create that considers the safety risk of every element of your food operation and puts measures in place to eliminate or minimise those risks. See TSFG’s Level 2 HACCP course for more details.

What is Legionnaires Disease? Do I need to worry about it before I lockdown and when I reopen?

Legionnaires Disease is caused by Legionella bacteria, which live and breed in temperate, standing water and are then transmitted through airborne particles. Any premises that has been closed down for two or more weeks may have unintentionally been breeding this potentially fatal disease. Water systems, condensers, coolers, A/C units and tanks which have reached temperatures of 20-45 degrees C, may now harbour the bacteria – and no-one wants to face a new biological enemy in the wake of a global pandemic!

Ideally, water systems will have been flushed out, chemically treated and properly closed down before lockdown, but many businesses will not have considered this risk before they locked their doors. If that includes your business – you are not alone. The HSE has issued guidance about what to do in this situation. Follow their guidance and risk assessment here . And if necessary, call on the services of a local expert to ensure your water system is risk free before you open up to staff or customers.