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.
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.
Food safety training experts The Safer Food Group have released a brand-new Level 3 course, aimed at supervisors and managers responsible for implementing allergy safe procedures.
The online, video-based endorsed award is the first of its kind to be created for the UK food industry. The course aims to equip food operators with the vital skills required to risk assess their operations, implement safe processes and manage teams. The video and written content addresses two essential elements of food allergen management, namely prevention of cross contamination and delivery of good communications.
Academic Director, Jonathan Green, stated, ‘We are very excited to be bringing this course to our learners. Whilst consumer focus on good allergen management has increased, food operators have not necessarily been able to access adequate tools to help them put good practice and process in place.
We undertook an audit of available Food Allergy courses, and realised it was not always clear who existing allergy courses were aimed at, and what their objectives were. We created two distinct courses – a Level 2 course that specifically meets the needs of food handlers, cooks, and front of house teams, and a second, Level 3 course that helps the supervisor, manager or chef through the allergen risk assessment process and enables them to put effective solutions in place.’
Who is this Level 3 Allergy Management course suitable for?
This course is suitable for those responsible for ensuring safe use of allergenic ingredients in their workplace, including managers, supervisors and chefs. It is suitable for food operations in catering, hospitality, manufacturing, education, health and care settings.
How much does the Level 3 Allergy Management course cost?
The course costs £48 + vat for a single learner, but multi-purchase options are available, which allow course purchase for larger cohorts at £24 + vat per learner.
How long will the course take?
Depending on experience, studying the course itself will take approximately 4 hours. In addition, learners will use resources supplied to complete their own risk assessment and allergy policy. The course concludes with an online exam.
Are there any entry requirements to taking the Level 3 course?
We recommend that learners have previously been trained in allergy awareness to Level 2. The Safer Food Group Level 2 Allergy Awareness course has been developed alongside this course, and learners who have already taken the Level 2 course will be familiar with the format, chapters and terms used. Recap material from the Level 2 course is available to Level 3 learners.
When will Level 3 Allergy Management be available?
The new course is available from 4th March 2022
Is this course accredited?
The course is an endorsed award, accredited by Qualifi, an Ofqual registered awarding body: ref: AFAM3SFG2022, and attracts 6 CPD learning points.
Why is food hygiene and safety important for Early Years practitioners?
It is important to serve safe, hygienic food to everyone – but in early years settings, it is especially important to ensure little bodies are protected and nourished, and immune and digestive systems can develop safely. Having an awareness of food borne illness and how to prevent it is important for anyone who works in early years.
Do I need a food hygiene qualification for childcare?
According to Section 3.48, Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, March 2021: “Providers must be confident that those responsible for preparing and handling food are competent to do so. In group provision, all staff involved in preparing and handling food must receive training in food hygiene.”
What level of food hygiene training do I need for childcare?
This depends on your role – if preparing and serving food is a small part of your role, and someone else is instructing or supervising you, a Level 2 Food Hygiene award should be adequate. If you are running the kitchen, putting processes and plans in place, and supervising others, you might want to look at a Level 3 Food Hygiene award, that gives you some insight into management level skills and a greater background knowledge of food safety.
Where can I get food hygiene training for early years?
If you already work in early years, your employer may have a preferred training provider for food hygiene. If you’re looking for a course yourself, you can choose to study a face to face or an online course. Think about what is important to you before you decide – cost, convenience, being able to recap material and study at your pace, or being able to ask questions?
Look for a course that is designed for early years practitioners, especially at Level 2. Courses such as those offered by The Safer Food Group cover specific situations and details that will be relevant in your role.
Also, consider whether you’ll need any additional training – do you need to learn about Allergen Management, or Nutrition for your setting, for instance? If so, look for a training provider who can cover all of these subjects – you’ll have all your training details held in one place, and you’ll build up a comfortable familiarity with the way the courses work.
I want to know more about catering in an early years setting….
Have a look at our free guide – it covers menu planning, food safety, hygiene and allergens, and provides links to some great free resources for early years cooks.
We know that life in hospitality and catering can be tough. Long hours, unsociable shifts, tricky customers… just some of the reasons your job can leave you feeling blue. When it becomes hard to leave the work stress at work, it’s time to talk to someone.
We’ve created a list of organisations that can help. Feel free to add comments if you work with or have sought help from an organisation you’d like to add to this list
The Drinks Trust is the community for the drinks industry, offering support and services to help its community thrive.
Hospitality Action work to provide hospitality workers with financial, physical and psychological support to help them overcome adversity and get back to work as quickly as possible.
The Care Workers Charity aims to advance the financial, professional and mental wellbeing of social care workers by making grants, signposting to resources and providing access to services.
The Burnt Chef Project is a non-profit social enterprise fully committed to making the hospitality profession healthier and more sustainable.
Hospitality Health is a Scottish organisation that helps those who are in need of support, by providing wellbeing advice and signposting organisations that can help. We hope we can make a difference, even to a few individuals.
Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
What is the difference between a Use-by date and a Best Before date?
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.
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