Food Safety Focus – Bacillus cereus

Information adapted from The Safer Food Group: Level 3 Food Safety (Supervisor) course

An aerobic, pathogenic bacteria that produces a heat resistant exotoxin (spore forming).

Description of Bacillus cereus

Bacillus coagulans is one of the good guys – a bacteria that forms the basis of some probiotic foods. Unfortunately, it has less friendly cousin; Bacillus cereus which causes food poisoning.
Bacillus cereus is a soil-dwelling, spore-forming food poisoning bacteria chiefly associated with cooked rice, as well as other starchy foods including pasta and potatoes. If cooked at less than 100°C, bacterial spores survive and germinate, releasing toxins which cause food poisoning.

Food sources of Bacillus cereus

Foods affected include rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals, and spices.

It loves inadequate cooking and poor refrigeration and hates good food hygiene practice. The best way to avoid food poisoning from B. cereus is to avoid reheating rice dishes.

FSA guidelines require cooked rice to be chilled/refrigerated and used within 24 hours.

Symptoms of Bacillus cereus poisoning

Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and occasionally diarrhoea.

Onset time: 1 – 5 hours
Duration: 12 – 24 hours
Carrier Status: None

How to control Bacillus cereus

  • Thorough cooking and rapid cooling of food; typically rice is cooked in boiling water – 100°C – for at least 10 minutes.
  • Following cooking, control bacterial multiplication by the reduction of time in the danger zone after cooking, i.e., control of time and temperature during hot holding, and rapid cooling before storage
  • Refrigerated storage at 5°C or less for no longer than 24 hours
  • Avoid reheating rice dishes if possible – if reheating rice is undertaken ensure recommended FSA cooking temperatures and times are achieved.
  • Take care to prevent cross-contamination

Our Customers: Jilly’s Cupcake House

Home based baking business

In our third post looking at food safety training from the perspective our customers, we talk to Jilly Shah, of Jilly’s Cupcake House, whose charity cake baking turned into a business more than 5 years ago. Jilly started raising money for the A-T Society in 2015, but as orders flooded in, her hobby became her business.

It was at this point, Jilly told us, “I realised I needed to get professional and get Level 2 Hygiene certified. I found the Safer Food Group in a Google search and I’m so glad I did. Studying the course videos gave me so much encouragement and motivation. Not to mention how entertaining Marcus and Nick were throughout the course; it was so enjoyable!

Completing the course helped me so much in my business. I run my bakery from home, so all the tips and guidance I learnt from the course really helped me to transform my home bakery into a professional environment.”

As someone affected by A-T, Jilly continues to run her business with all profits going to the A-T society. We’re glad we have helped just a little in Jilly’s journey, and wish her lots of baking success in the future.

Improving staff retention in hospitality

Employment within the hospitality industry is often regarded as a temporary arrangement, both by employees and employers themselves. What can we do to change this view, and why would it help both businesses and the people working within them?

According to a pre-covid survey commissioned by YouGov, staff turnover in the UK hospitality industry averages around 30% – twice as high as the national average. Some of this turnover is accounted for by seasonality of roles – employing temporary staff to cover busier periods – but the industry is often seen as one for young people and students, to tide them over before embarking on their long term career.

The YouGov survey listed key improvements that would be likely to encourage staff to remain including:

  • Better pay and benefits (63%) 
  • More control over work life and shift patterns (55%) 
  • More stable income and guaranteed hours (52%) 
  • Better career prospects (42%) 
  • More transparency from employers regarding shifts/scheduling (32%)

Why retention matters

In the post covid market, running an efficient operation will be a vital factor in the survival of hospitality businesses. Retaining good staff adds to your operating efficiencies by:

  • reducing recruitment costs
  • reducing training costs
  • improving team stability and morale
  • minimising payroll costs and potential salary errors.

By tackling some or all of the staff concerns listed above, you put your business in a better position to retain staff. Let’s look at three of the major concerns, and consider ways to make improvements.

Better working patterns and shifts

The great news is it is relatively cheap, quick and easy to address staff concerns regarding working patterns and shifts. Creating a system that allows staff to access shift information weeks in advance, and gives them regular, fair and predictable working patterns allows staff better control over their own lives and therefore reduces stress. This may encourage job applications from prospective staff who require stability from their employment – such as working parents or those with caring commitments – who would in turn be more likely to remain in a job that suits their lifestyle.

Consider using an online tool to give greater visibility of rotas to staff. Cloud based tools such as Google calendar or Doodle poll provide low cost and easy to use software which allows your team to view and even collaborate with your resource planners to find the best rota solutions for everyone. Organised forward planning is a very low cost, high impact way to improve your team’s working life.

Better career prospects

To offset the perception of hospitality as low skilled, temporary employment, consider creating a clear career path that staff can follow. Think about suitable training to help them increase the right skills as they follow that path – not just functional job related courses such as food hygiene or allergen training, cookery or sommelier courses, but training that incorporates invaluable softer skills, including team work, customer service and leadership skills. A recognised award programme such as the Catering Professional Award demonstrates that you value a team member enough to invest in their development and future, and can actually encourage new staff to seek employment with you.

Creating a defined career path adds to individual and team stability. Once you have a number of staff who have a good career record with you, they will be able to act as mentors for your less experienced staff and will demonstrate the real benefits in staying with you.

Winners of the 2021 ‘Best Pub Employer’ award, Brewhouse & Kitchen, were commended for their team first approach – this included their innovation training programme that was strengthened during the pandemic, reinforcing the importance the pub and microbrewing company places on staff wellbeing.

Better pay and benefits

Paying minimum wage to staff may look sensible in your budget planning, but it can be a false economy. A low wage is most likely to attract staff who are looking for a temporary, stop gap role while they look for something with better conditions. Also consider that they will attach similar value to their role as you do – so if you demonstrate that you consider your staff to have little value in the benefits you provide, your team will think similarly; this will be reflected in the time they spend in role before looking for a new opportunity.

When deciding on a pay and benefits package, do your research. Look at average pay rates of similar businesses in your area and ensure you don’t undervalue your team. Think about the wider package of benefits you offer – such as tips, staff discount, team meals, long service rewards and annual leave – and be clear about these right from the start.

And one last tip – don’t forget to say thank you! We are all human – the impact of being recognised for a job well done, keeping going through a difficult period, or just being a great colleague is huge.

Marketing your credentials – the hidden benefits of good food hygiene

A recent report by the BBC has highlighted concerns expressed by the FSA over newly formed ‘at-home’ food businesses, who fail to register with their local authority. And in turn, this has prompted increasing numbers of consumers to consider whether the food products they buy from small online food operators is actually safe to eat.

Your legal requirements

Remember, food business registration can be as simple as completing an online form via your local authority website, and is a legal requirement for any business that:

  • sells food
  • cooks food
  • stores or handles food
  • prepares food
  • distributes food, including:
    • restaurants, cafes and takeaways
    • catering businesses run from home, B&Bs, mobile catering and temporary businesses
    • marquees, food stalls, food pop ups and food vans
    • nurseries, schools and care homes
    • distance selling, mail order and food delivery including online

Registration as a food business is free in the UK.

As a food business, you are also legally required to ensure that you, and anyone else working with food receives adequate supervision, instruction and/or training in food hygiene for the work that they do.

Use your credentials as marketing tools

As a food professional, how do YOU judge a restaurant’s food safety standards? You know what to look for, so when you are visiting a new food business, you probably check out the FSA Hygiene Star Rating (Food Hygiene Information Scheme rating in Scotland) in the door or window, and seek evidence of staff training certificates once inside.

You can use the same tools to market your online food business. If you are paying for food safety training, as well as nurturing skilled, knowledgeable staff, you should also look for other ways of making a return on your investment; that is to say, use it as a marketing tool. Talk about any training successes you’ve had via your social media accounts and website. This proactive approach shows customers that you care about their safety, and your team’s development.

At The Safer Food Group, we love to see customers celebrating training success. Tag @TheSaferFoodGroup in your social media posts, and we’ll give you a virtual pat on the back – increasing your audience reach and underlining your commitment to producing food safely.

You can also promote your official food hygiene rating – especially effective if you gain a 5 star / Pass rating. The FSA have created a media page and resources to help you advertise your rating virtually – it includes a great little toolkit with some invaluable ideas

You can also provide a link to your official business rating, so your customers can see for themselves – click here for Welsh and English listings and here for Scottish listings

Be proactive – talk about food safety

You might feel uncomfortable talking about food safety on your social media page but remember – it shouldn’t be a taboo subject, and if you uphold high hygiene standards in your business, you should be proud to talk about them. You can guarantee that some of your potential customers want to know – and are too shy to ask – so make it easy for them to choose you!

Our Customers: Case and Brewer Fish and Chips

Takeaway Restaurant

Established in 1963, this independent chippy on the South Coast prides itself on quality – and this is reflected in their customer service, their 5 star hygiene rating – and of course their food! Staff training has changed significantly since those early days, but has always been a key factor in getting things right for their customers.

David, the shop owner told us, “When our local authority originally introduced food hygiene training, it was face to face – we rearranged rotas and spent afternoons in the classroom to get our certificates. Whilst it was great to know our staff were competent, it was always tricky arranging sessions around opening times.

Using Safer Food Group online training has be great for us – it’s much easier to fit in around shifts, and the video lessons feel similar to the classroom course we used to take. The SFG website gives us an up to date record of our staff training, which helps keep a track on our seasonal staff, and all the courses we need are available in one place, including the Level 3 Supervisor, Health & Safety and Allergy Awareness courses.”

Case and Brewer are justifiably proud of their team’s achievements; if you manage a trip to beautiful Dorset this summer, why not pop in and enjoy some freshly cooked fish and chips and some great customer service.

Our Customers: Nottingham Moderns Rugby Club

Volunteer led sports club

NMRFC is a community based rugby club with a thriving youth and minis section. The club started using Safer Food Group training courses when their Sunday morning catering team grew to meet the needs of their increasing membership. We spoke to Clare, their Catering Manager to understand the impact that SFG training has had on the club.

“On a Sunday morning, we feed our hungry kids and their parents with bacon and sausage sandwiches – it keeps them happy and helps us raise money to maintain the club. Originally, a handful of mums and dads would come in and cook while their kids were playing, but as our membership numbers grew, it became obvious that we needed to set up our catering operation properly – and that included getting a bigger, trained volunteer team.

It is always tricky asking volunteers to take on additional tasks like training – they already dedicate lots of spare time to the club, so we needed a training course that was thorough but quick, that they could fit in when it suited them. Our first volunteers took their SFG Level 2 Food Hygiene courses in 2012, and we’ve used them ever since. Having a group of trained volunteers helps us to spread the load, and we know we’re not taking a risk with the safety of the food we feed the kids.”

The club has also used HACCP and Allergen courses, to make sure their kitchen processes are in order, and have consistently received 5 star hygiene ratings ever since they registered as a food business a decade ago. We hear the kids are delighted to be running around the field again on a Sunday morning – good luck NMRFC!

Spring budget 2021 – latest update

Here are the headline announcements from the Chancellor’s Spring budget:

  • The furlough scheme  will continue until the end of September 2021. In July, employers will be required to pay 10% of wages to employees, increasing to 20% in August and September.
  • Self Employed grants will continue, with one grant to cover the February – April period, and a final one to cover the period from May onwards. An additional 600,000 claimants are now expected to be eligible following submission of February’s tax returns.
  • The National living wage will increase from April
  • A new Restart Grant will be introduced to help closed businesses reopen. Those in non essential retail, currently due to open on April 12th will be eligible of a grant of up £6k.
  • Later opening businesses, including hospitality, hotels, gyms, as well as personal care and leisure firms will receive grants of up to £18k.
  • A new recovery loan scheme will introduced, guaranteed to 80% by the government, offering between £25k and £10m.
  • The business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will continue until the end of June, then rates will be reintroduced at lower interim rate.
  • The 5% reduced VAT rate will continue in the hospitality sectors until September, followed by an interim rate of 12.5% until the end of April 2022.
  • Contactless payments limit increased to £100
  • Personal income tax thresholds will be raised as planned in 2022, and then held until 2026.
  • Alcohol and fuel duties continue to be frozen
  • Corporation tax will increase in 2023. The most profitable companies (profits £250k+) will pay 25% corporation tax, tapering down to 19% for businesses with profits of £50k or less.
  • Companies will be able to carry back losses over three years to enable greater tax rebates for struggling companies.

Visit The Safer Food Group’s website for our budget beating course price reductions on Food Hygiene training

Covid-19 – Working Safely (3)

Implementing a Covid Worksafe plan

In this chapter, we think about the hazards and risks you identified in your risk assessment and use them to create and implement a plan to make your workplace safe. The first step is to: 

Control the risk

Consider all elements in your risk assessment one by one. For each of them, you should aim to ELIMINATE the risk whenever possible, by using the preventative measures described in part 1 – examples could include:

  • Monitor staff infection levels. Ensure that you have a clear reporting method for any staff that have covid symptoms, and that staff and managers are aware that any suspected cases must remain away from work premises as per government guidelines.
  • Introduce a clear social distancing policy that details how staff and customers should act whilst on your premises.
  • Eliminate shared equipment: create individual named kit for every worker and specify how this kit is kept apart from others’.
  • Introduce clear zoning, so that each worker has their own obvious workspace and customers have clear instructions about where to go and what routes to follow. Enforce this with bold wall and floor signage and visual cues such as colour coding
  • Close areas of congregation – this may mean that staff are not able to use on site facilities such as canteens if you are not able to provide adequate space for social distancing.
  • Outsource elements of production if you cannot safely undertake them in-house.
  • Quarantine non-perishable items that come into your business for a 72 hour period. For perishable items, you could create a suitably temperature controlled quarantine area as long as you are able to operate within use by dates

If you are unable to ELIMINATE any of your identified risks, you must take adequate steps to MINIMISE them. This might include:

  • Regular cleaning schedules for equipment that has to be shared by workers, ensuring surfaces are sanitised between each use.
  • Wear face coverings in circumstances where social distancing is not possible. This should apply to both staff and customers, except in the case of exemptions 
  • Provision of shields between workspaces if individuals are not able to work at least 2m apart
  • Staggered breaks and work schedules to minimise the number of staff on premises at any point in time.

Handwashing remains one of the single most effective ways of reducing infection levels, so on top of any measures identified above, you must ensure staff have regular assess to clean, hot water and soap and are encouraged to use it on entering the premises and before and after touching surfaces and objects, on top of the normal levels of handwashing required to maintain good hand hygiene. Provide sanitising stations for customers and encourage their use, particularly in businesses where customers do not have access to handwashing facilities. Our guide to handwashing best practice provides a useful reminder of effective technique.

Please note – the lists above are not definitive. It is important that you work through your own environment and processes and think carefully about the risks and appropriate controls for your specific situation.

Record your findings and implement them

Add the control measures to your risk assessment document and put everything in place to ensure they take place.

A vital part of this step is COMMUNICATION. In order for your control measures to be effective, everyone must understand their role in the process and carry it out. The best approach to communication is to start with a discussion that allows workers to ask questions and gain a good understanding of your new control measures. Follow this up with a simple written document that allows them to remind themselves of the process, and use simple, bold signage within the workplace to remind them of the most important details as well as communicating any rules your customers must follow.

During the communication stage, do not be afraid of feedback given by staff – listen to what they have to say. Their understanding of some work processes may be greater than yours, or they may have more effective ideas of how to deal with the risks. It may be useful to revisit your plans in light of feedback – working in a collaborative way that recognises the contribution of others is more likely to result in an effective plan that the whole team can work with.

Review your assessment and update if necessary

In light of the rapidly changing situation with Covid-19, you will need to monitor and review your measures on a regular basis to ensure their effectiveness. Some measures, such as staff absence levels should be monitored on a daily basis, in order to identify and deal with any unusual spikes as quickly as possible.

Observe your control measures in action. Do they eliminate or minimise risk in the way that you intended? Do they introduce other, unintended risks (for instance – does increased handwashing create congregation points at sinks?)?

Keep lines of communication with staff open, seek and listen to their feedback and be prepared to adjust control measures if they are not effective. Whilst this is a period of adjustment and is unsettling for everyone, demonstrating that staff and customer welfare is of genuine concern can have a positive long term effect within your workforce, and protect your future business.

Bear in mind that you may need to adjust your plans according to the situation in your local area. Check the government websites for local restrictions: 

Free covid-19 signage, social distancing signage
Free COVID-19 signage / Social distancing signage to help you work within current government guidelines

Covid-19 – Working Safely (2)

 Including Covid-19 in your workplace risk assessment

As we are now facing a new risk, workplace risk assessments need to be updated to include covid-19. In this chapter, we look at the first two steps of the risk assessment process – Identifying the hazards and assessing the risk. 

Employers should already be familiar with the risk assessment process, as they are legally responsible for protecting their employees from harm – failure to do so can lead to prosecution, fines and even prison sentences. If you need a reminder of how to undertake a risk assessment, follow this link to the Health and Safety executive, or work through the Safer Food Group’s Level 2 Health and Safety course for a more detailed understanding. 

Identify the hazards

Hazards are processes, environments or physical objects that may cause harm. In the current climate, you will need to consider a new environmental hazard – the transmission of a highly contagious virus that has the potential to cause serious harm to a large percentage of your workforce and customers. This could be within your business premises, or outside of your premises if you despatch goods or send people to work elsewhere.

Record this process in writing, either in addition to your normal workplace risk assessment, or as a specific document that addresses Covid-19 as an individual risk. This template, created by The Food Standards Agency in Scotland, is a great starting point if you need some help.

Assess the risk

In other words- how likely is the hazard to occur, and how much harm could it cause? 

Unfortunately, in this case, the hazard could cause very significant harm. In business terms, you could experience a depletion in your workforce meaning you cannot continue day to day business, or you could transmit the virus to your customer, damaging your reputation. In personal terms, anyone who contracts the virus may be at risk of a considerable period of sickness, long term health effects or even death.

Using the information in part 1 about methods of transmission, think about the ways the virus can enter and be transmitted around your business. As we have seen, Coronavirus is particularly resistant and robust, surviving both in the air and on surfaces; this is one of the reasons it has become such a dangerous disease.

Consider any person or object coming into your premises as a potential carrier of the disease and think about their journeys as they move around your premises. At what stages in these journeys do these people or objects come into contact with other people or objects? Do workers share equipment, touch the same surfaces, work within a small area?

In your risk assessment, write down all the instances in which a person touches a surface or object that might have been touched by someone else – whether handling stock, ingredients or finished goods, sharing equipment or working in a shared workspace. Consider all of the times within a working day they may be in close proximity to a colleague or customer – don’t forget to think about break times, and periods before work when staff may gather to get changed or access leisure areas, rest areas and lockers.

As part of your assessment, you will need to understand if some people are at greater risk than others, either because of the job that they do, or because of their personal characteristics. Current guidance suggests that no specific groups of the population are unaffected by coronavirus, and as such you must consider all members of staff at risk. However, it is sensible to consider extra measures for those specifically identified as vulnerable, as discussed in part 1. Add this information to your risk assessment document, so you remember to look at each group individually.

Sector specific guidance

The UK government has produced comprehensive guidance for various sectors to help in the risk assessment process. We have provided links below to those of most relevance to the Safer Food Group’s customers, but to view all sector specific guidance to working safely during the pandemic, use this link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19. These guides also contain sector specific regulations that relate to businesses in England (see part 3 for links to regulations in devolved UK nations)

Childcare and Early Years providers

Factories, plants and warehouses 

Hotels and other guest accommodation

Offices and contact centres

Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services

Shops and branches

Free covid-19 signage, social distancing signage
Free COVID-19 signage / Social distancing signage to help you work within current government guidelines

Registering your food business – what’s holding you back?

A recent report by the BBC has highlighted concerns expressed by the FSA over newly formed ‘at-home’ food businesses, who fail to register with their local authority. But what are the rules around registering a food business, and what is holding business owners back from doing so?

“I only sell a few roast dinners once a week – it’s not really a food business”

Food business registration can be as simple as completing an online form via your local authority website, and is a legal requirement for any business that:

  • sells food
  • cooks food
  • stores or handles food
  • prepares food
  • distributes food, including:
    • restaurants, cafes and takeaways
    • catering businesses run from home, B&Bs, mobile catering and temporary businesses
    • marquees, food stalls, food pop ups and food vans
    • nurseries, schools and care homes
    • distance selling, mail order and food delivery including online

“But I only have a small business, I can’t afford to register”

Registration as a food business is free in the UK.


Other costs associated with setting up a new business, such as registration at Companies House and obtaining relevant business insurance are not linked to food business registration. Consider, however, that the penalties and risks (and stress!) you may incur if you don’t tick these boxes far outweigh your initial outlay.

“I’m running my business from my home – if I register, the EHO will visit and will probably close me down”

The Environmental Health team within your local authority are responsible for ensuring that all food businesses within their locality prepare and sell food which is safe for consumers. The most effective way to do this is to build and maintain good working relationships with food businesses – and so it is in their interests, as well as yours, to start communications on the right foot.

Your EHO will want to see that you have considered all aspects of setting up and running a food business safely; the good news is, there are many tools available to help you do so, including specific advice from the Food Standards Agency about setting up a food business at home.

If you are in doubt about any aspect of setting up your business safely, as a registered food business you can approach your EHO for invaluable advice. In short – the EHO is a vital business support person, not the big bad wolf!

“I’m still not sure I understand food safety properly – and I don’t have time to learn!”

Running any kind of business without fundamental skills and knowledge is pretty scary. But the training you need to run a food business safely and confidently- such as food hygiene, allergy awareness, health and safety and HACCP – can be easily accessed, flexible and great value for money. With online training, you can study at a time and place that suits you; and at a pace that works for your skill level and existing knowledge – just check that it is accredited by an appropriate awarding body (such as Qualifi or CIEH) and accepted by your local authority.

If you want to employ staff within your food business, especially if they will be working away from supervision, it is important to know that they have the correct training in place to uphold your standards, even when you’re not there. And demonstrating your credentials to your customers is a great marketing tool – even if you sell your business via local social media channels, people will be reassured to see your training certificates and your Food Hygiene rating

If you have recently started a food business and you’d like to share your experiences of the Food Business registration process, drop a comment below or visit our Facebook page and leave us a comment – we’d love to hear from you! And if you’re just starting out on your journey – good luck, we hope it goes well.