Use-by dates and Best Before dates

What is the difference between a Use-by date and a Best Before date?

Jars of crystallised honey Copyright www.thesaferfoodgroup.com 2021

In simple terms, a use by date tells you whether a food should be safe to eat, while a best before date tells you about a food’s quality.

Use by dates appear on foods that are most likely to perish quickly, and cause a threat to health after a relatively short period. This includes meat, fish, dairy products and prepared salads and meals. Harmful bacteria can exist on these foods and multiply over time, so it is vital to follow food safety rules when using these foods.

Waste prevention tip – foods can be frozen up to and on their use by dates, as long as they’ve been stored safely up to that point. You’ll need to cook and eat it within 24 hours when you defrost it.

Best before dates tell you about the quality of a food – after this date, the food may not be harmful to eat, but the flavour or texture might be affected. Best before dates are often used on frozen, tinned and packet foods.

Waste prevention tip – Have a regular check of your food cupboard and make sure you keep foods with shortest best before dates at the front so you don’t forget about them.

Use-by and Best Before video Copyright www.thesaferfoodgroup 2021

To review this and other important food safety important, visit The Safer Food Group and check out our Level 2 Food Hygiene course – vital for all food handlers

Calorie menu labelling – our free guide

What does your food business need to do to meet April 2022 calorie labelling regulations?

Calorie labelling regulations logo

The government has announced that calories will be labelled on menus and food labels in certain ‘out-of-home food businesses’ from April 2022. Out of home refers to business that prepare food for immediate consumption by its customers, such as cafes, restaurants, pubs and take-aways.

What businesses does this affect?

The new legislation means that large businesses with 250 or more employees in England, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways, will need to display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drinks that are prepared for customers. In some circumstances, franchisees are deemed to be a part of their franchisor’s business and therefore employee numbers are calculated across the whole business.

When does it come into force?

The legislation comes into force from 6th April 2022, for the businesses outlined above

How must calorie information be displayed?

Calorie information will need to be displayed at the point of choice for the customer, such as physical menus, online menus, food delivery platforms and food labels

Businesses are also required to display the statement ‘adults need around 2000 kcal a day’ on their menus where food is chosen from a menu, or otherwise on a label where it can be seen by customers when making their food choices. Children’s menus are exempt from displaying the statement referencing daily calorie needs as the calorie requirements of a child vary with age and are less than that of an adult

Why is calorie labelling legislation being brought in?

The measures, which form part of the government’s wider strategy to tackle obesity, are planned to help to ensure people are able to make more informed, healthier choices when it comes to eating food out or ordering takeaways

When must smaller businesses comply with the new calorie labelling legislation?

At the present time, no plans to introduce this legislation into smaller food businesses have been announced

What are the penalties for non compliance?

This has yet to be announced

Are there any exemptions?

Specific exemptions applying to food include:

  • • Temporary menu items on sale for less than 30 consecutive days and a total of 30 days in any year.
  • • Food which is ‘off menu’ and made available or prepared differently to the way it is normally prepared, at the request of the customer.
  • • Alcoholic drinks over 1.2% alcohol by volume.
  • • Condiments which are provided to be added by the consumer (not including condiments which are part of the food served).

The Regulations also specify exemptions for food which is served:

  • • On an international aircraft, train or ferry to or from a country that is not part of the UK.
  • • By a charity in the course of its charitable activities.
  • • At an institution providing education to children under 18 years.
  • • To patients (not for payment) at a hospital or other medical establishment or to residents of a care home or other social care institution.

Anything else we need to know?

At the moment, guidance is still being written. As updates are available, The Safer Food Group will update and add to this post. Our training courses are regularly updated to capture the latest relevant food safety regulations – check out www.thesaferfoodgroup.com for more info. If you would like to learn more about calories and menu planning, have a look at our Level 2 Nutrition course.

Natasha’s Law in health and care settings

What does your setting need to do?

The UK Food Information Amendment – Natasha’s Law – came into force in October 2021. An important development in helping prevent the serious effects of food allergies, this law amendment deals with labelling products that have been packed on premises ready for sale. It was brought into force to strengthen the 2014 Food Information to Consumers legislation, and followed a period of dedicated campaigning by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who tragically lost her life after eating a sandwich containing the allergen sesame. At the time, foods prepared in house and packaged for later sale were not required to be labelled individually.

What is Natasha’s Law and who does it affect?

Natasha’s law applies to any business or food operation that is preparing, packing and then later selling food from the same premises, or from a mobile stall or vehicle. This includes: cafes and coffee shops, takeaway and fish & chip restaurants, sandwich shops, farm shops, as well as work, school and hospital canteens. Voluntary and charity organisations who undertake fundraising events such as bake sales will also need to consider how they package their goods and whether they need to apply the new rules.

How does Natasha’s Law apply in a care or health setting?

Within care and health settings many foods are prepared and served directly to residents and patients – the new rules do not apply to these foods, although they will be covered by existing food safety regulations, including those relating to allergens. Some settings prepare, sell and distribute meals to customers off-site (e.g. ‘Meals-on-wheels’ services); these will typically be covered by regulations for distance selling of food. Where settings prepare and pre-package food for sale to customers – for instance to visitors to their café or restaurant – they will need consider Natasha’s Law and how to apply the correct labelling to those foods.

When does it come into force?

Natasha’s law was created in September 2019, and came into force in October 2021 throughout the UK.

What foods are covered by Natasha’s law?

Any food which is Pre-Packed for Direct Sale (PPDS); that means prepared in-house, wrapped or placed in packaging, ready for the customer. This includes food that customers select themselves, as well as pre-wrapped items that are kept behind a counter.

What are PPDS foods?

Examples of PPDS items include:

  • Sandwiches, pies, burgers, ready meals or cakes/baked goods prepared and packaged by a food business before the consumer selects them
  • Foods prepared and packaged and sold at a market stall
  • Wrapped deli counter goods such as cheese and meats, and boxed salads placed on a refrigerated shelf prior to sale
  • Freshly made pizza or boxed salads from a supermarket deli counter which are packed on site and refrigerated prior to sale
  • Mixed bags of sweets which are made up, packaged and sold on the same premises or from a mobile unit such as an ice cream van.

For further help, use this tool created by the FSA.

What must we do?

All PPDS products will need to be clearly labelled with 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, italics or a different colour. An exception to this rules is products with a surface area of less than 10cm2 – if this applies to your products, have a look at the FSA website to understand your responsibilties.

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. But more importantly, the damage to the reputation of your business if a serious allergy incident occurs is almost impossible to calculate.

What else should I think about?

The death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse highlights the importance of food allergen awareness within all food businesses and operations. As well as considering the physical labelling requirements, food businesses should also take this opportunity to think about their production process and staff training implications. It is vital that your food operation has a clear allergen policy, which allows both staff and customers to understand any risks that are present to allergy sufferers. Staff must fully understand any processes that they are expected to undertake when creating meals that fulfil any allergy-free claims you make, and those who communicate with customers must be able to do so truthfully and confidently.

All Safer Food Group training courses that contain allergy awareness advice include guidance on Natasha’s Law – and our all new Level 2 Allergy Awareness course for food handlers has been entirely updated and relaunched in September 2021, to comprehensively cover this subject.

Whilst Natasha’s law makes information more readily available and therefore easier for staff to communicate accurate ingredients information, the key message for all staff in food preparation is the importance of consistency in and clear communication of ingredients and recipes. Allergen training, whether in-house or with certified training courses, is a vital step in keeping your customers, staff and your business safe.

Our Customers: KSB Recruitment

Safer Food Recruits – Providing quality candidates for catering and hospitality

Birmingham based Catering and Hospitality Recruitment agency KSB Recruitment established by Dawn over 30 years ago. Dawn’s experience in the industry drove her to create an agency that operated differently, offering flexible, tailored solutions for both businesses and candidates.

To this day, KSB pride themselves on offering an outstanding service to both clients and candidates. Being able to send fully trained staff to a client’s establishment is a key part of that service, demonstrating their commitment to providing high quality candidates who can fit neatly into existing teams with high service standards and customer service skills.

We asked Dawn why she wanted to work with us: ‘The Safer Food Group was recommended to us and I was really impressed by what they had to offer. The ease of access for our candidates to undertake the training was a key point for me. Our candidates are busy people and we needed a course that wasn’t too complicated or that took too much time for them to complete; we also needed to ensure they were well equipped with the knowledge to undertake a role where food hygiene is of the utmost importance’

If you are looking for quality talent to support your Catering or Hospitality business, contact Dawn and the team at KSB Recruitment.

Our Customers: Care South

Safer care: providing food, fun and friendship

Care South is a not-for-profit charity and leading provider of quality nursing, residential and dementia care, with 16 care homes as well as Care at Home services, across the south of England.

Care South chose The Safer Food Group to help ensure staff were trained to a high standard, requiring a quality accredited course.

“We know that our residents have led rich and fulfilling lives and we want to keep it that way and ensure there is plenty of food, fun and friendship along the way.

As a Care Provider, we wanted to access Accredited L2 & L3 Food Hygiene and Allergen courses for our catering staff.  Quite a bit of online research took place and The Safer Food Group caught our eye. 

We reviewed the courses and found them informative and engaging.  Marcus and Nick kept us focused throughout the learning process, which we enjoyed.  We knew this would suit our staff group.

The Safer Food Group ticked all the boxes in providing quality, accessible courses at a cost that suited us.  Options to bulk buy courses at discounted prices gives us flexibility to meet the needs of the business.  The platform dashboard is clear and easy to use and the team at customer services are always happy to help and very responsive to emails.

The comfort, safety and well-being of our residents is of paramount importance to us and care is at the heart of everything we do. Making sure are staff are trained to help them do their job to the best of their ability makes this possible.”

Do I need a food hygiene certificate?

Whether you are an established cook or looking for your first role in catering, a food hygiene certificate is an important part of your toolkit. We look at the top 5 reasons for passing your food safety course before you apply for that dream job.

1. Training makes you a safer worker

This one should go without saying. The fundamental reason for taking a food hygiene course is to learn the principles of preparing safe food – it’s that simple! Understanding food safety challenges such as cross-contamination and knowing the difference between a Best-Before and a Use-By date are really important skills in a kitchen. Having an up-to-date certificate to show you have already mastered these skills gives an employer confidence before you even arrive for an interview and helps you hit the ground running.

2. A certificate sets you apart from other candidates

This one is especially important when you are starting out in the food industry, perhaps looking for your very first food industry job. A food hygiene certificate demonstrates that you are genuinely interested enough in the sector to invest in your own training. For an entry level job, you won’t need to break the bank –  Level 2 Food Safety (aka ‘Basic Food Hygiene’) is usually sufficient, and you can buy a single online course for £12+ VAT. BUT – there are lots of courses out there, and they vary in quality – make sure you look for a course that is accredited by a reputable body, such as Qualifi or CPD

3. Training gives you confidence to make the right decisions

Roles in catering and hospitality are generally busy and at some point you may be working without supervision. You need to be able to make the right decisions when working alone, and taking food related training courses, such as Food Safety, HACCP and Allergy Awareness, will help you to do that.

4. You need to understand your personal, legal responsibilities

This is the scary one. As a food handler, you have a legal responsibility to do everything you reasonably can to make sure the food you serve is safe to eat. A good food hygiene course will explain your legal responsibilities and those of your employers and supervisors.

5. Good food hygiene helps you prevent waste

The food industry is becoming increasingly focussed on the environmental impact of food waste. Having a good understanding of food safety practices – especially fridge and freezer temperatures, food labelling and hot-holding, cooling and reheating methods – will enable you to do your bit in the war on waste. And for your employer, that means cost savings too – a big win-win!

Food Safety courses are readily available online, and can generally be taken in your own time, at your own pace. Good training providers will allow you to sample course content before you buy to check it is right for you – so perhaps a better question would be: ‘Why wouldn’t I need a Food Hygiene certificate?’

What is Acrylamide and do I have to worry about it?

Food Safety Focus

What to watch out for when working with starchy foods

Acrylamide is a chemical that forms during a reaction between sugars and amino acids in starchy food, particularly when that food is cooked at high temperatures. Based on scientific studies, it is believed to be carcinogenic – that means, cancer forming – and therefore we should all be aware of its presence and understand what we can do to minimise its production when we cook.

Food handlers and food businesses have a legal responsibility to ensure that the food they produce is safe to eat. Therefore, all food businesses should be aware of and take steps to minimise the production of acrylamide when purchasing, storing, preparing and cooking food, and food handlers should follow any plans that are put in place. The responsibility of food handlers and producers to minimise acrylamide levels is specifically addressed in EU Regulation 2017/2158.

What foods may contain acrylamide?

  • chips, french fries, other cut, deep fried potato products and sliced potato crisps from fresh potatoes
  • potato crisps, snacks, crackers and other potato products from potato dough
  • bread, including loaves, rolls and baguettes, toast and toasted sandwiches
  • breakfast cereals (excluding porridge)
  • baked products including cookies, biscuits, rusks, cereal bars, scones, cornets, wafers, crumpets and gingerbread, as well as crackers, crisp breads and bread substitutes
  • coffee: roast coffee, instant (soluble) coffee, coffee substitutes
  • baby food and processed cereal-based food intended for infants and young children

What steps should I take to keep food safe in my business?

  • Understand your legal position – different types and sizes of food business have different legal responsibilities.
  • Use a reputable published guide to check if any of the foods produced within your business presents an acrylamide risk (links to FSA: SFBB and UK Hospitality guides are below).
  • If you do produce acrylamide prone foods, use those guides to establish safe ways to produce these, and include this information in your Food Safety Management System (e.g. SFBB or HACCP).
  • Ensure all relevant staff are trained in these safe production guidelines – make sure any guidance you produce is clear and easily accessible.
  • Include acrylamide in your regular FSMS review process.

What are safe production methods to reduce production of acrylamide?

The most obvious indicator that a food has been cooked at too high a temperature is its colour – make sure fried, toasted or baked products reach a golden yellow, or lighter colour. Other quick tips include:

  • Store potatoes in a cool, dark place above a temperature of 6 degrees C, to discourage production of sugars
  • Always follow manufacturers’ instructions on part and pre cooked products
  • Use cooking oils that perform most effectively at lower temperatures

However, there are many more steps within the purchasing, storage, preparation and cooking processes that you need to follow to stay safe – we recommend you refer to Safer Food, Better Business or your relevant industry guides for more detailed information.

Our Customers: Smith’s Community Support

Safer Communities – How CICs are empowering volunteers through training

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’… whilst the pandemic has been incredibly tough, it has also shone a spotlight on some brilliant volunteer work, undertaken by teams and individuals within communities across the UK, working hard to support community members who need some extra help. At The Safer Food Group, we are very lucky to work with some of these fantastic groups and organisations – including Smith’s Community Support in Ayr.

Smith’s Community Support is a drop-in centre and café, created by Agnes Smith and her team to provide a hub for those who need support and advice, cake and cuppa or just a chat and friendly face. Smith’s Community Support is based within the Tsukure Hub CIC, itself an innovative community project which takes a creative approach to engaging local people and giving them the opportunity to learn new skills. The centre has had many roles during the last year, including a food redistribution point, a cookery school for families on low budgets, an advice centre and a space for community members to volunteer and learn in a working kitchen environment.

The centre is financially self-supporting, running regular fundraising activities in order to continue providing its essential services – which is why The Safer Food Group were keen to help with training courses to enable the volunteers work safely in the kitchen. Once Agnes had tested our courses for herself, she set her team the task of passing their Level 2 Food Safety and Allergy awareness courses. These courses not only enable the team to operate safely within the centre, but they also provide accredited certificates for the volunteers to demonstrate their skills as they seek paid employment.

Like many volunteer organisations, Smith’s and Tsukure have grasped the opportunity to give something back to their volunteers, by focussing on the employment and life skills that they can pass on. We wish Smith’s Community Support , Tsukure Hub CIC and all our voluntary sector partners the best of luck with everything they do, and hope they can continue with the vital work they are doing in rebuilding and strengthening their community.

What are ‘scores on the doors’?

…and how do I get a 5 star food hygiene rating?

Otherwise known as The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (or Food Hygiene Information Scheme in Scotland), scores on the doors are the green stickers you see in the windows and doors of many food establishments throughout the UK.

Similar schemes trialled in countries including the USA, Canada, Denmark and Singapore had shown that a rating scheme that was visible to and accessible by customers significantly improved the hygiene standards of food establishments. Initial work began in the UK in 2005, leading to the eventual roll out by the Food Standards agency (FSA) of the 5 star rating system that still exists today (Pass / Improvement required / Exempt in Scotland).

How do food establishments get a good food hygiene rating?

Inspections are carried out by local authority Environmental Health teams, ideally every two years for food businesses with good hygiene standards and well trained food handler staff, or more regularly for those businesses that are struggling to achieve those standards. EHOs are trained to measure businesses against a set of criteria, including:

  • Maintaining a secure food supply chain – ensuring all suppliers deliver high quality food that has been stored and delivered safely.
  • Ensuring all food is sold within use-by dates.
  • Storing food in the correct manner, whether this is in a fridge, freezer or dry food store.
  • Storing dry food in cool, clean, well-lit and well-ventilated stores.
  • Keeping fridges operating at 5°C or below and freezers operating between -18°C and -22°C to stop bacterial growth.
  • Minimise time that high risk foods spend in the ‘Danger Zone’; between 8 °C and 63 °C
  • Rotating stock correctly.
  • Chilling hot food and thawing frozen food safely.
  • Storing and preparing raw and ready-to-eat foods separately to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting all equipment, surfaces, and clothing correctly.
  • Following all personal hygiene procedures including thorough hand-washing.
  • Ensuring that all staff are adequately trained for their role, whether handling food, or managing and supervising others to do so.
  • Making sure food is safe to eat by maintaining recommended core cooking and reheating temperatures.
  • Hot-holding foods at correct temperature and time.
  • Disposing of waste safely and hygienically and maintaining clean outdoor areas.
  • Keeping food equipment clean, free from damage, waterproof, and movable for easy cleaning.

As a customer, should I worry if I can’t see a food rating sticker?

The Food Standards Agency encourage food businesses to display their rating stickers – in fact, in Wales and Northern Ireland it is mandatory for food hygiene rating stickers to be displayed. You might wonder why a business would not want to display a rating sticker – do they have something to hide? The latest ratings for food businesses are also available online, via the FSA website; this is also the place to find out how to report a food business if you have concerns about their safety standards.

What can I do to make sure my food business gets a 5* star rating?

  • As an owner or supervisor, make sure you fully understand what good food safety looks like and how you can bring safe methods and process into your business
  • Make sure your team are fully trained in their roles – we recommend that all food handlers are trained to the standard of a Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate / Food Safety Certificate at least.

If you are unsure about anything, talk to your local authority’s environmental health team. They are there to advise and would rather you asked a question and kept your customers safe than you make a dangerous, possibly even fatal, mistake

Our Customers: Farmhouse Biscuits

Safer Food manufacturing

Diversification from agriculture into food production and retail feels like a very modern way for farming businesses to adapt and thrive. However, the McIvor family of Higher Oaklands Farm spotted this opportunity in the 1960s, when Farmhouse Biscuits was born.

Growing successfully from tiny roots, Farmhouse Biscuits still operates using the same family values and traditional methods – and the manufacturing business has also embedded a culture of food safety, and a dedication to the wellbeing of its 300-strong team. The staff tell us it’s a great place to work, and their hard work is reflected in a Grade A+ Certification to the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety, for continuous  improvement in food safety, hygiene and quality procedure.

Carel van Bentum, Facilities Manager of the Lancashire based production facility explained how Safer Food Group training is woven into the working lives of their team members. Food Safety and Allergen Awareness are tackled as part of a comprehensive induction programme for new staff. Making use of the flexibility of Safer Food Group training, courses are delivered both online and with the help of tutors in a classroom setting.

And Safer Food Group systems benefit the management team too. Carel can keep a track on learners’ progress, as well as spotting certificates due for renewal using the admin system in his business account – vital when you have a big team to support.

It’s always rewarding to play a small part in the success of a brilliant business – and we love supporting Carel and his team almost as much as we love eating their biscuits! Why not visit their shop and make sure you’re stocked up for National Biscuit Day (yes, really!) on 29th May?