October 2021 marked significant changes in food labelling legislation throughout the uK. The introduction of Natasha’s Law, in response to the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laprouse, imposed additional labelling requirements onto foods classified as PPDS – pre-packed for direct sale.
One year on, have these changes led to an improved situation for customers? YouGov research suggests that almost two thirds of consumers are still unaware of the stricter rules now followed by food outlets. More significantly, 45% of respondents to the survey said that lack of confidence in food handlers’ allergy awareness prevented them from buying food from certain outlets.
What can we do to improve this situation in our food businesses?
Be aware of all relevant food legislation
For instance, do the latest legislative amendments apply to your business? PPDS is food that is produced and packed on site for later sale, so your Hallowe’en range might introduce items such as pre-packed cakes and biscuits, wrapped toffee apples, and sweet cones. Do you know how to label these foods, and how this differs to other food in your range? Take time to understand your legal duties and make sure you’re fulfilling them in your business
Take a proactive approach
Don’t wait for a customer to ask you about allergens – ask them first. Some customers, especially younger or less confident ones, may hesitate to ask, even if they know they have a specific allergy. Giving them an opportunity to tell you about allergies increases their confidence in your professional approach to food safety
Train your team
Allergens can be a scary subject. Getting it wrong can be fatal, so it’s no wonder some food handlers are not confident about talking to customers about their needs. Help your team out by getting them properly trained – a Level 2 course will give them the fundamental understanding of allergenic ingredients and how to deal with them, as well as equipping them with the skills needed to communicate with customers. Level 3 training is suitable for supervisors required to risk assess their food business, and implement suitable systems, processes and communication methods, to ensure they are both legally compliant AND safe for customers with allergies.
When you understand allergenic ingredients and how to deal with them in your business, it’s not such a spooky subject! Let’s keep everyone safe this Hallowe’en and beyond.
Community organisations often face unique challenges when serving
food. These can include:
Sourcing safe food – food may be donated from
various sources or homemade, so accurately monitoring ingredients and potential
for cross contamination may be tricky or even impossible
Inexperienced teams – food handlers may be volunteers
without food industry experience or training, and the team may not be
consistent from event to event. They may not be confident to deal with difficult
questions and potentially too eager to answer with a positive message, rather
than an accurate answer
Inexperienced supervisors – those supervising food
production may themselves be inexperienced and may not have adequate understanding
to put safe processes into place and ensure they are carried out.
The key factors to managing allergens safely in a community
organisation setting are the same as in a commercial setting: accurate risk
assessment, easy to follow processes and clear communication.
Food allergen legislation for community groups and charities – how does the law apply to us?
Unless your organisation is registered as a food business, you will not be subject to many of the food allergen laws, including the latest ‘Natasha’s Law’. Organisations that supply food on an occasional and small-scale basis usually do not need to register as food businesses; however, if you provide food on an organised and regular basis, you’ll need to register with your local authority – Follow this link to the FSA guidance
Whether or not you are a registered food business however, food legislation
provides a good framework to help you operate safely. Here is some key information
about food allergy law that will help you operate safely:
There are 14 allergenic ingredients that are listed by the Food Standards Authority. These ingredients – or ALLERGENS – are those most likely to cause an allergic reaction. In law, registered food businesses must declare their use to their customers. Here’s a useful poster of those 14 listed allergens.
Other ingredients can also be allergens, even if they don’t appear on
the list. Ingredients such as strawberries, kiwis, and peas are increasingly
causing allergic reactions, so it is always useful to have a list of all
ingredients contained within any food you offer.
Food ingredients labelling depends on how the food is packaged. Food classified as ‘pre-packed’ has a different labelling requirement from food ‘pre-packed for direct sale’, which is different again from food sold ‘loose’. For further information, see our post about Natasha’s Law
Do I need to worry about allergens if I’m not a registered food business?
Even if your organisation is not required to follow food allergy legislation, it is still within your interests to take sensible precautions in order to keep your customers and supporters safe. Training all of your volunteers in food safety and allergen management may not be an effective or proportionate solution – but it is often reassuring to have one or two experts trained up and ready to advise. The Safer Food Group offers cost effective, flexible, online training, with discounts for larger organisations – get in touch if you’d like to find out more.
Whether or not you have a trained expert on your team, it is sensible to
risk assess your food operations and make any necessary adjustments. Think
about the journey your food products take, from ingredients through production
to serving. Do all of your food products take the same journey? (for instance,
do you produce all your food in house, or do you also accept ready-to-sell
donations?) If not, you’ll need to run through this assessment for all different
categories of foods.
Here’s a simple matrix that can help you start to think about the journey your food takes, and the risks that might be introduced along the way. This matrix is based on a real example, but it is important you consider your own organisation carefully and make adjustments for the way you operate. At this stage, just concentrate on allergens, but you could use a similar approach to general food hygiene and safety. To keep things clear, you should undertake this process for each different type of food you serve:
The next stage is to think about whether you can eliminate
those risks, whether you can minimise the risks, or whether the risks are
impossible to mitigate. Taking donated cakes as an example:
Looking at the risks and measures you’ve identified, come up
with an achievable plan and think about the way you will communicate the plan
with everyone involved – in this case, donators of cakes, those preparing and
serving the cakes, and your customers. Don’t forget, if you are working with
inexperienced volunteers, you will need to consider what actions may be too
complicated or onerous.
In this example, you’ll see that the risk has not been
eliminated completely, but steps have been taken to minimise allergen contamination
and the risks are communicated clearly with customers. As a minimum, we must enable
allergy sufferers to make an informed choice about whether or not they can
safely eat our food.
Once you’ve risk assessed and created a plan, do a ‘dry run’
to check your thinking – and go back and adjust any areas that haven’t worked
out as you expected.
Getting volunteers on board
Dealing with food allergies can be daunting for a food professional, let alone a volunteer who is serving cakes at a jumble sale. Some may be reluctant to change from current methods, whilst other may struggle to acknowledge the seriousness of food allergies. It is important for those in leadership roles to convey the importance of good practice whilst being sympathetic to those who are reluctant to change.
This can be made easier by asking a small team of volunteers to become food safety experts within your group. Both food hygiene and food allergy management training can be easily accessed and flexible – The Safer Food Group offers basic online Food Hygiene Level 2 or Food Allergy Awareness Level 2 for £12 + VAT per course. For larger groups, volume-based cost savings can reduce course prices to £6 per course – ideal if you can purchase on behalf of a larger district or region. Once you have experts in place, they can take an active role in creating safe processes as well as disseminating key information to other group members.
Small food businesses – local cafes, restaurants and pubs – are at the heart of their communities. They understand their customers and provide more than just food and drink: a meeting place, a listening ear, a social routine.
During the pandemic, many local food businesses became a source of help to those in need, and with the school summer holidays looming, they look set to do the same again.
The Safer Food Group offers a package of support to all of those food businesses that offer special deals to families during the summer holidays. We’ve created a set of free marketing materials and a logo, to help you advertise your ‘Summer Food Scheme’ offer to your community. And to help with your business costs, we’d like to offer free Level 2 Food Hygiene Courses* to any company or organisation who puts a Summer Food Scheme in place.
To use our marketing materials – a poster, logo and social media image – click on the images below, download the resources and add your own details. Use them to advertise your scheme online and in your outlet.
And to claim your Level 2 Food Hygiene courses, complete this form, with evidence of your Summer Food Scheme (such as a link to your SM or website, or photos of your advertising). Organisations offering a Summer Food Scheme will be able to claim up to 5 course codes, for Safer Food Group online training courses, to distribute to their teams. Course codes are valid for use within a year.
Don’t forget to use the #SummerFoodScheme when posting on social media – and tag us too, we’d love to follow your stories!
*Free course codes available only as described, 5 courses available per business / organisation. Course codes can be distributed by the applicant to employed staff or volunteers associated with the organisation, allowing them to undertake required learning and exam for Level 2 Food Hygiene award. The Safer Food Group reserve the right to withdraw offer of free codes if applicants appear not to offer a genuine, value added offer in keeping with the Summer Food Scheme principles.
Learning about a range of new foods is great for the development
of young bodies and brains but exploring safely should always be first priority.
There are some really well known food safety tips for under
Cut small fruits such as grapes, berries and tomatoes lengthways, then into quarters
Steam or boil firm vegetables like carrots, yams or broccoli
Remove bones from meat and fish
Don’t give whole nuts
But did you know that foods that foods such as bread, jelly and marshmallows could also could create choking hazards? We’ve created the free ‘Guide to Early Years Catering’, for advice about safe foods for little ones, nutrition for under 5s, menu planning and much more
Everyone knows the 5 second rule – as long as you pick it up
in less than 5 seconds, it’s safe to eat food you’ve dropped on the floor.
Let’s set this one straight – that’s outrageous! Good food hygiene
is all about keeping dangerous pathogens out of the food we eat. And however
hard we try, no-one’s floor is genuinely so clean you could eat your dinner off
it. So, don’t rely on the 5 second rule.
There are lots of great rules you can use in your kitchen
though. It’s worthwhile knowing the key facts and figures; and if you work in a
commercial kitchen, you’ll need to work these into your HACCP plan.
Some effective rules are:
Wash your hands thoroughly for 2 minutes before each new kitchen task
Avoid the pathogenic danger zone of 8-60 oC
Cook food to 70 oC for at least 2 minutes
For more info, have a look at our Level 2 HACCP course, and learn about setting up a Food Safety Management System for your kitchen
What’s the most deadly tool you use in your kitchen?
Kitchen knife? No
Mandolin? It’s tricky to handle, but no.
The kitchen mixer with the dodgy electrical cable? We don’t
recommend using this one – but it’s not as deadly as….
Your mobile phone!
Repeated studies have shown that most mobile phones carry a
zoo full of germs, including nasties such as Streptococcus, Staphylococcus and E.coli. But we scroll
without thinking in between cooking tasks, running the risk that we spread
these pathogens through our food to the people we cook for.
Ideally, to cut the risk of cross-contamination, keep your mobile phone out of the kitchen, but if that doesn’t work, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly every time you pick it up. To learn more about the hidden dangers lurking in your kitchen, have a look at our Level 2 Food Hygiene Course
With rising food costs and threats of supply issues, we’re all
becoming increasingly aware of food waste. So making best use of your freezer
makes good sense.
But what are the rules on freezing food? What are the
deadlines you must stick to in order to keep food safe?
Freezing food prolongs its use by pausing the effects of harmful bacteria – most bacteria cannot be destroyed by the freezing process. Use-by dates indicate food safety; a product that has passed its use-by date could already be unsafe to eat so you cannot freeze food after the use-by date has passed.
When freezing foods, use information on the product label to work out how long it can be frozen. Defrost in the fridge, then cook thoroughly using safe times and temps and eat within 24 hours. Have a look at our Level 2 Food Hygiene course for more info about the rules for cooking safely
Everyone knows how to use cleaning products, right?
Spray disinfectant onto the surface, wipe off with a clean
cloth, job done…
Disinfectants are used to destroy pathogens (bacteria and viruses).
In order to work effectively, they need time to break down cell walls and
interfere with the pathogens’ operating systems. For this reason, disinfectants
used in commercial kitchens include instructions about CONTACT TIME – that is
the time you need to leave the product to work before wiping clean.
If you didn’t know this, you’re not alone – in a group we recently surveyed, no-one knew about contact time. But it’s really important to read the label and follow the instructions to make sure you’re cleaning effectively. To learn more about keeping your kitchen in tip-top condition, have a look at our Level 2 Food Hygiene Course
Early Years settings can claim reimbursement for milk, under the Government’s Nursery Milk Scheme. This applies in England, Wales and Scotland, although the scheme is known as Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme in Scotland, and extends to snacks.
What EY settings can apply for this scheme?
With a few exceptions, the settings that can apply for this scheme include:
Registered day care providers
Local authorities providing day care
Those providing day care to children under 5 years in schools
Those providing day care in a nursery or crèche for children (under 5 years)
Which children are eligible for free milk, and how much?
Children under 5 years who attend the setting for two or more hours are entitled to 1/3 of a pint of milk each day they attend the setting.