Do volunteers need food safety training?

According to the Food Standards Agency advice on providing food at charity or community events, this depends on whether you provide food on an occasional and small scale basis – in which case you do not qualify as a food business – or on a regular and organised basis – in which case, you may need to register as a food business. In any case, food supplied at any event MUST comply with food law and be safe to eat.

If you are unsure which category you fall into, seek advice from your EHO (contactable via your local council). Don’t be afraid that this will lead to extra red tape – your EHO is there to help and advise you, and responsible planning at the outset may prevent a far more tricky situation if your food sales lead you into legal problems along the line. To give you examples – a scout group selling tea and premade cake at an annual jumble sale is not likely to qualify as a food business, but a rugby club selling cooked bacon rolls and pies every Sunday morning probably will. The scout group should still make sure that their food and drink is fresh and kept safely, and that they have a list of allergens in their cakes – but they won’t need regular checks from an EHO.

All food businesses need to comply with all EU food hygiene law, including those related to food hygiene training and allergen awareness. This means that the person in charge of the event or the catering set up must ensure that anyone preparing or handling food receives ‘the appropriate supervision and training in food hygiene and food allergens, which is in-line with the area they work in and will enable them to handle food in the safest way’ (The Food Standards Agency). This can be ensured by taking accredited training – online courses are often the most cost and time effective route for volunteers, and reputable providers can advise on the correct level of training. It could also be achieved by on-the-job training and supervision by a suitable person on site. Or the volunteer themselves may already have sufficient skills and experience to allow them to undertake the role safely – the person in charge must be able to demonstrate that the skills of each volunteer have been considered and are appropriate for their role.

At the Safer Food Group, we support a number of youth organisations, sports clubs and charities with their food hygiene and allergen training requirements. Our flexible, value for money courses allow organisations to purchase courses on behalf of their volunteers, taking advantage of our bulk purchase prices and allowing learners to undertake the training at a time that fits with their busy schedules.