Do I need a food hygiene certificate?

There is no one simple answer to the question, ‘Do I need a Food Hygiene Certificate’ – but we can certainly help find the right answer for you.

If you are responsible for managing food safety in a business – for example, a supervisor, manager or business owner – you must be suitably trained to ensure you can put correct procedures in place and see they are carried out. You must also ensure that your team is appropriately trained in food hygiene and safety, including allergens.

If you are someone who works with food, you must be trained to a suitable level for your role, in food hygiene and safety, including allergens.

But – what is suitable or appropriate training?

The Food Standards Agency define training as:

  • training while working
  • self-study
  • relevant previous experience

So, technically, neither a supervisor nor their team requires a food hygiene certificate to operate safely and satisfactorily. However, it is worth bearing in mind that training is a key area that your EHO will look into, and it is very likely that any inspection will include a number of questions both to management and team members to satisfy the inspector that good food safety is understood and carried out. For that reason, it is good practice for all food handlers and managers to regularly undertake regulated food hygiene training and to renew on a regular basis.

For supervisors, managers, and anyone else who oversees activities and staff and is responsible for introducing and maintaining procedures and processes, it is important that training includes management level skills, for example creating and using a Food Safety Management system. In general in the UK these would be Level 3 courses – although it is always important to check the syllabus of any course you undertake, to ensure you cover all the important elements.

For food handlers – including chef, cooks, anyone in food prep and front of house staff – a Level 2 Food Hygiene certificate should cover day to day needs – although again, we would always recommend checking the syllabus of any course before you sign up. A Level 3 Certificate would be a good way to increase skills and knowledge and demonstrate readiness to take the next step into management

For anyone who doesn’t directly handle food, but an understanding of food safety is important, a Level 1 Food Hygiene Certificate can provide the basic level of training required. This training might be useful for someone making food deliveries, or a kitchen porter.

For all regulated food training, we would recommend retaking the course every 3 years. As well as refreshing knowledge, this gives the learner insight into any new practice or legislation influencing food hygiene practice introduced since their previous training.

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.