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Duties of Food Business operators and Food Handlers

Duties of Food Business operators and Food Handlers

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Foodborne disease outbreaks
continue to occur worldwide,
often intensified by globalised
trade that substantially impact costs to
individuals, the food industry and the
economy. Food safety is a prominent
issue in all catering businesses and a
lack of training or poor understanding
of food hygiene can lead to many food
safety issues such as food poisoning
and contamination. In the UK each
year, there are more than 850,000
cases of food poisoning and more than
400 people die from food poisoning.
Getting Food Safety and Health &
Safety wrong can lead to £20K or
unlimited fines or, in the most extreme
cases, a 2 year jail sentence – and
apparently, closing down the business.
It is estimated that each year in the
UK around a million people suffer
a foodborne illness and 20,000
people receive hospital treatment.
There are around 500 deaths caused
by foodborne illness which costs us
nearly £1.5 billion. So, there is a
substantial number of responsibilities
of a food business operator which
cannot be ignored. According to the
Food Safety Act 1990 and the Food
Hygiene Regulations 2006 the main
duties for food business operators are
to ensure food is safe to eat and it does
not harmfully affect the health of the
customer. It is the duty of a caterer to
implement a HACCP-based food safety
management system and to follow food
safety procedures. A food business
owner must ensure all staff are trained in
food safety before they start their work
and ensure all staff are supervised.
On the other side, a food handler is
responsible for cooking, preparing,
serving, packing, displaying and storing
food. They must follow any safety
instructions issued by an employer, and
conduct their duties in such as way so
that they do not affect the health and
safety of themselves, work colleagues,
customers or their employers.
According to Food Safety Act 1990 a
food handler must not expose food to
risk of contamination. It is mandatory
for food handlers such as the kitchen
and waiting staff to have high standards
of personal hygiene and to follow all
safety instructions. Food handlers
must not work with any kind of food if
they have illness such as a cold sore,
infected cuts, colds, skin conditions or
nose and throat infections etc. They
should not return to work until they have
been symptom free for at least 48 hours.
While the food safety legislation
affects everyone in the country, it is
predominantly relevant to anyone
working in the manufacture, catering,
processing, storage, distribution and
sale of food, no matter how large
or small the business. Food safety
legislation is enforced by authorised
officers of the local authority and
they have the power to enter food
premises at any reasonable time and
interview staff and gather evidence,
taking photographs and inspecting, seizing and
detaining records, including computer records. An
enforcement officer can seize food if suspected
of being unfit and prosecute or serve statutory
notices. For serious offences, the enforcement
officers may serve hygiene improvement notice,
hygiene prohibition order and hygiene emergency
prohibition notice .
Penalties for food safety offences
Depending on the scale of the case it will be dealt
with by either a Magistrates’ Court or Crown
Court. Magistrates’ courts may impose a fine of up
to £5,000 per offence and/or a prison sentence
of up to six months. A Crown Court is for more
serious cases heard in front of a judge and jury.
The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine and/or 2
years imprisonment.
In January 2017, Asda Supermarket pleaded
guilty to three breaches of Regulation 19(1) of the
Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations
2013 and was fined £300,000 by Highbury
Magistrates’ Court on 3 March 2017.
Staff training
To meet food safety regulations, adequate staff
training is essential. Food safety training is required
for everyone starting from managers, supervisors,
food handlers to produce safe, contamination-free
Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 requires food
business operators to ensure that food handlers
are supervised and instructed and/or trained in
food hygiene matters commensurate with their work
activity. Those responsible for the development
and maintenance of procedures based on HACCP
principles or for the operation of relevant guides
have received adequate training in the application
of the HACCP principles.
A good training programme will help staff
understand their responsibilities in relation to
food safety and give them the knowledge and
understanding to meet their responsibilities. Food
Safety training at different level is essential to reduce
food poisoning outbreak and customer complaints
and increase productivity and profitability.
The higher the level of accountability, the larger
the amount of training will be compulsory. For
instance, those who are responsible for developing
and implementing the food safety management
system are required by law to take training in the
application of HACCP principles.
The only way to ensure legal duties are met
is to ensure all staff attend nationally
training courses.
Food handlers,
particularly for
those handling
high-risk food must
undertake a formal
training leading
to a level
2 award in
food safety.
Training should be
refreshed, when necessary
– for example when
changes are made to the food safety management
system. The lack of training or poor understanding
of food hygiene can lead to many food safety
issues such as food poisoning and contamination.
With the correct training and regular application of
food safety principles can ensure food safety and
improve business.
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