FSA launch Allergy Alert service

The Food Standards Agency has launched a great new service, useful to both food businesses and customers. Their #AllergyAlert tool enables you to choose specific notifiable allergens, and receive an email or text alert when a product is recalled or poses an allergy risk.

We suggest that all food businesses sign up to this service to keep themselves aware of any products containing undeclared allergens and do their best to keep their food safe for customers.

Keeping your customers safe + Covid-19 Signage

Feedback from customers to shops open during the pandemic has proved that they appreciate businesses that take customer safety seriously. Thinking about the journey your visitors take, and how to make that journey as smooth and efficient as possible will help them feel valued and that can only be a good thing, for your customers, your staff and your business. A clear route with bold signage is the first step to bringing customers back onto your premises safely.

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

Step 1 – Outside Spaces

Think about social distancing outside your premises. How do you encourage people to stay 2 metres apart? What are the best methods for you? Think about window posters, floor stickers, rope barriers or free standing frames and flags that can show the customer what is expected of them.

Step 2 – Entrances and Exits

Is it clear to the customer when and where, or even if, they can enter your shop? Think about the messages you want to place at the entrance. Do you need to specify the number of people allowed in at one time? Do you need to let them know which direction to walk in, and what to do once inside? Walk through the process yourself to spot the potential questions and pitfalls. A member of staff on the door to manage the queue can be a great asset, especially if they can chat to customers, lighten the mood and make the experience more pleasant.

Step 3 – Inside the shop

Your customer needs to know how to walk round the shop, where and when to stop, how to order and how to pay. Think about the best way to communicate – stickers on the floor or posters on walls or hanging from ceiling could indicate direction, whereas ordering and payment instructions are best both before and at the point of purchase. And while you’re thinking about signage inside the shop, if you’ve never got round to displaying your Food Hygiene Rating sticker and your team’s food hygiene certificates, now is a great time to get it done!

Design considerations

Do you want a quick and easy solution – if so, check out our free download, ready for you to print up to A3 size or on A4 on a standard printer.  Or do you have a ‘corporate image’ that you would like a designer to incorporate into your signage?

Think about suitable materials. Is paper sufficient – you can amend and replace it easily … or do you need to visit a specialist printer, who can print on longer lasting, weather proof or adhesive material, and provide you with hardware such as frames, screens and flags (N.B. – if you are thinking about floor or hanging signage, please ensure you visit a printer who understands and follows required health and safety guidelines). We’re happy for you to take our templates to a professional printer, but please ask them to drop us a quick line for permission if they’d like to adapt our designs in any way, on clare.grantham@thesaferfoodgroup.com.

Restarting a food business after a temporary shutdown

A quick internet search will reveal a whole raft of information and advice regarding food business operations during and after the pandemic. This checklist, written by the brilliant team at the Institute of Food Science and Technology, is the most comprehensive and easy to follow list we’ve found.

Restart checklist

Important Links

The IFST Knowledge Hub contains a lot of great resources to consolidate advice, practical guidance and links to resources to support individuals, smaller food businesses and larger food operations

IFST Covid-19 Knowledge Hub

I want to start food deliveries – do I need a license, or special car insurance?

To deliver prepared food / meals to customers, you need to be registered as a food business, via your local authority. If you run an existing food business and want to start delivering food orders, you need to consider any new or different risks posed by this change. You will need to work through your Food Safety Management System* to make sure any food you sell in this way remains safe to eat.

Planning rules were relaxed on 17 March 2020 to allow pubs and restaurants to operate for 12 months as hot food and drinks takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak. However, businesses that do this must tell their local authority when the new use begins and ends.

The Association of British insurers have confirmed that if you are using your personal vehicle to deliver groceries or other essential goods to people, as long as you are not including a delivery charge, you do not need to update your insurance cover.  If you are charging for deliveries, you should contact your insurance provider/ broker to check if they can extend your vehicle insurance to cover home delivery.

*Your Food Safety Management System, sometimes referred to as HACCP, is the system you create that considers the safety risk of every element of your food operation and puts measures in place to eliminate or minimise those risks. See TSFG’s Level 2 HACCP course for more details.

Can I train while on furlough?

We know how frustrating it can be. For some staff, the first weeks on the Job Retention Scheme felt like a welcomed break from busy lives. But now you’re keen to get back to work and thinking of ways to ease you back into your job. Renewing your food hygiene certificate, or even increasing your skills and knowledge with a Level 3 award feels like a great way of making the most of your time and showing your employer how much you’ve missed them!

But are you allowed to undertake a training course if you are furloughed? And is your employer allowed to ask you to train during your time away from the office? In most cases – YES! Your employer can ask you to undertake training related to your work, as long as you are not making money for your employer or providing services to your employer.  If your employer has asked you to train then you must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage / National Living Wage (or the equivalent apprentice wage) during the training, even if this is more than your 80% subsidised rate of pay during furlough. 

Of course, you are allowed to take courses that you choose and pay for yourself during this time – at The Safer Food Group, we have found a lot of our learners have chosen to take our Nutrition course during time off. There have been some great deals available for training courses during the pandemic, and it’s a good time to concentrate on learning that new skill or hobby that you’ve just never found time to do. BUT – do be cautious of signing up to courses that advertise themselves as free. Choose reputable suppliers, such as FutureLearn and OpenLearn, who are very clear about their genuinely free courses. Many others come with small print that reveal you become liable for fees after 4 weeks, or require you to pay back the cost of the course if you do not complete it. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification of terms and conditions in writing before you sign up.

What is Legionnaires Disease? Do I need to worry about it before I lockdown and when I reopen?

Legionnaires Disease is caused by Legionella bacteria, which live and breed in temperate, standing water and are then transmitted through airborne particles. Any premises that has been closed down for two or more weeks may have unintentionally been breeding this potentially fatal disease. Water systems, condensers, coolers, A/C units and tanks which have reached temperatures of 20-45 degrees C, may now harbour the bacteria – and no-one wants to face a new biological enemy in the wake of a global pandemic!

Ideally, water systems will have been flushed out, chemically treated and properly closed down before lockdown, but many businesses will not have considered this risk before they locked their doors. If that includes your business – you are not alone. The HSE has issued guidance about what to do in this situation. Follow their guidance and risk assessment here . And if necessary, call on the services of a local expert to ensure your water system is risk free before you open up to staff or customers.

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.

When does my food hygiene certificate expire?

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.