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.

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?

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.

Marketing your credentials – the hidden benefits of staff training

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!

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.

Do I need to register with the ICO?

The ICO, or Information Commissioner’s Office, oversees the safe handling of personal data within companies. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, any organisation that processes personal information must register with the ICO.  While failure to do so is a criminal offence, some organisations may be exempt and may not need to register or ‘notify’ the Information Commissioner’s Office.

What is ‘personal data’?

Personal data is information about individual people, where they live, what they do and more. It’s any and all information that identifies them, including:

  • people’s names and addresses;
  • photographs;
  • customer reference numbers;
  • customer reviews.

If a document, file or image identifies a person, or could be used in combination with other information to identify them, then it’s personal data. This applies even if the information doesn’t include a person’s name.

What does ‘handling personal data’ mean?

Handling personal data means taking any action with someone’s personal data. This begins when a business starts making a record of information about someone, and continues until they no longer need the information and it’s been securely destroyed. If you hold information on someone, it counts as processing even if you don’t do anything else with it.

So, in the example of a fish and chip shop, personal data might include a list of customers’ names, addresses and phone numbers that they use for ordering and delivering food, or images that they record on their CCTV system.

Which businesses are exempt?

Organisations that only processes personal information for:

  • staff administration (including payroll);
  • advertising, marketing and public relations (in connection with their own business activity);
  • accounts and records;

Some not-for-profit organisations;

Organisations that process personal data only for maintaining a public register;

Organisations that do not process personal information on computer.

Does this apply to my business?

You might use personal data in a slightly different way to the examples described above. To check whether your business needs to register with the ICO, follow this link to their self assessment tool and answer the questions…

Preparing for Natasha’s Law

Is your business ready?

The UK Food Information Amendment – Natasha’s Law – will come into force in October 2021. An important development in helping prevent the serious effects of food allergies, this law 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.

Who does it affect?

Natasha’s law applies to any business that is preparing, packing and selling food from the same premises, or food that is packed and then sold 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.

When does it come into force?

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

When will Natasha’s Law apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland authorities have confirmed that the law will be adopted throughout the whole of the UK from October 2021.

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 and then put on display. This could include products like sandwiches, salads, snacks and cakes. To check if you sell products that are classed as PPDS, 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.

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. Any business that sells or is planning to sell pre-packed foods would be sensible to consider their operations and processes now, in order to allow all required changes to be in place and tested before October 2021.

As well as considering the physical labelling requirements, food businesses will also need to think about their production process and staff training implications. It is vital that your business 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.

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.

What is a Food Safety Management System / HACCP?

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Every food business in the UK has a legal responsibility to:

  • make sure food is safe to eat
  • make sure it doesn’t add, remove or treat food in a way that makes it harmful to eat

A very important part of fulfilling this legal duty is creating a Food Safety Management system, using the principles of Hazard analysis and Critical control points (HACCP). HACCP is a system that helps you identify potential food hazards and introduce procedures to make sure those hazards are removed or reduced to an acceptable level.

These procedures will help you produce and sell food that is safe to eat, providing you:

  • keep up-to-date documents and records relating to your procedures
  • regularly review your procedures to ensure they reflect what you produce or how you work

Creating a HACCP Food Safety Management System

To create a comprehensive food safety management system, you will need to consider the entire journey of the food you produce, starting with the source of your ingredients and covering areas such as food handling, storage, cooking, cleaning and staff training.

A great resource to help you with this is the Safer Food, Better Business resource provided by the Food Standards Agency. This book walks you through each area of your business and tells you what you need to look out for, what records you need to keep, and how often you need to review your processes.

Safer Food, Better Business highlights the importance of good record keeping when producing food that is safe to eat. Good records will instil a culture of diligence within your food business and will also help prove to an EHO that you are doing things right.

The key records that most food businesses will need to keep are:

For more information, The Safer Food Group offer a Level 2 HACCP awareness course that looks into each area of Food Management in closer detail, explaining how to get it right – and what can happen when you don’t!

Important Links

Free 14 allergens poster