Food services have become big business recently, with a huge rise in SMEs being set up since the start of the pandemic. The amount of local takeaway and delivery food businesses has expanded at an exponential rate, meaning there are plenty of options if you’re looking to treat yourself!
But while setting up your own food business may seem like an easy way to start making a living, there are some pretty important health and safety requirements your business must meet. Whether you’re thinking of starting up your own small food business, or you’re already in business, it’s never a bad time to learn more about the strict health and safety elements of running a food based SME.
When working in the food industry, you can’t afford to compromise on health and safety. After all, your customer’s opinions and reviews can make or break your business .There are also certain legal requirements to be met in regards to your food preparation area – whether this is your home kitchen or a kitchen in a business specific space such as a shop or food van. If you can’t meet these requirements when you register your food business, then you won’t legally be allowed to sell food from your premises.
But aside from the obvious legalities, what else can you do to go above and beyond and ensure your SME food business is a safe space to work and serve food for your customers? Let’s take a look!
1. Wear disposable gloves.
Wearing disposable gloves the entire time you’re preparing food can be a bit uncomfortable and restrictive – it’s not for everyone. Some chefs will insist on wearing gloves all shift long, where others prefer to work with their hands. So long as your hands are clean, there is no real need to wear them constantly.
However, there are a few scenarios in food prep where disposable gloves are essential. One of the most important reasons is to stop the cross contamination of certain ingredients. If you’re preparing a gluten free, or nut free meal, for instance, you should wear gloves to prepare these meals – you don’t want to take any chances when it comes to customers’ allergies. When it comes to food preparation, vinyl gloves are the best option, they’re affordable and provide a great barrier.
2. Make sure disposables are used correctly.
A lot of cleaning products and PPE are disposable items and are designed to be used and then, without sounding too obvious, disposed of. However, in busy kitchens these ‘disposable’ one use items are often used for more than one customer or to prepare more than one meal, which means they instantly become counter productive. To keep your kitchen clean and to avoid cross contamination, ensure that all single use disposable cleaning or PPE items are only used once and then immediately disposed of or sterilised.
3. Clean your hands frequently.
A simple but highly effective rule, and perhaps a little obvious – but we’re pointing it out again for a good reason. Washing your hands thoroughly and properly is the cheapest, easiest and most effective way to ensure your small food business is clean and safe. You should wash your hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds, after handling any raw fish or meat, using the bathroom, using your phone, eating your own lunch or dinner, after sneezing or coughing, or touching any animals. Basically, anytime your hands come into contact with something other than your sanitised kitchen, utensils and ingredients, then it’s advisable to wash your hands.
4. Keep your food prep area clean.
When it comes to keeping your food preparation area hygienic, the best mindset is that you cannot clean too much. Get into the habit of wiping down surfaces, equipment and machinery after each use. It might seem a lot, but once you get into the habit, it’ll soon become second nature and you won’t think twice about having to do it.
5. Have official procedures.
It’s a good idea to put together a list of standard safety and hygiene procedures, especially if you decide to expand your business and take on staff members. Create a list of jobs which must be done daily, hourly, and weekly. As well as your official stance on when PPE should be worn, and how often hands should be washed. You can then easily pass this onto other staff members for them to refer back to when needed. It’s also handy to have this sort of documentation to show officials if you ever need to prove the lengths you go to for health and safety.
For further advice on managing food safety and hygiene for your SME, we’d recommend taking a read of the official Food Standards Agency website here. There are plenty of online training resources available for anyone new to the industry.