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Regulations, although sometimes tricky to follow, are there for a reason. They exist to protect your customers, the environment, your community and your business. Food and all the processes involved in transforming raw ingredients into delicious, edible dishes require care, precaution, and expertise. The regulations exist to ensure an acceptable and agreed upon standard is maintained throughout the industry.
Here, we share a general overview of the regulations that may apply to your commercial kitchen, but it’s important to note that it is your due diligence to consult with the relevant regulatory bodies in your area and take direct advice for your particular type of eatery. While we have expertise in best practice and commercial kitchen regulations in the UK and Ireland, this is intended as an overview of the area, rather than a comprehensive legal guide.
We tend to think of catering regulations as something that is there to stop your patrons from getting food poisoning - but the truth is that regulations are also there to protect your business, your staff and the wider environment. Businesses that don’t pay sufficient attention to regulations leave themselves open to fines, low food hygiene ratings, a bad reputation, and, in extreme cases, being shut down altogether. You cannot afford to ignore the catering regulations
Catering regulations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are overseen by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), and in Scotland by the Food Standards Scotland (FSS). The rules vary from place to place, and it’s your obligation as a business owner to know exactly what you need to do to keep your business compliant and within the protection of the law.
Consider the following:
A commitment to staying compliant shows your staff that you take their health and safety seriously - the importance of which cannot be overstated in the new, post-pandemic world. It also demonstrates that there are clear guidelines in place for them to adhere to, helping them serve your patrons with confidence. People like to take pride in the places they work. Forgo the proper equipment, supplies and best practice protocols, and you risk your staff jumping ship to go and work somewhere more reputable.
When it comes to customer loyalty, it’s not all about how delicious your food is (although that certainly helps, too!). Practising good health and safety has never been more important - particularly when it comes to hanging onto your customers. Nearly 2 in 3 customers agree that hygiene standards have now become more important since the pandemic—and many would not be willing to give venues a second chance if their hygiene standards dropped.
Virus outbreaks will continue to be an occurring issue across all industries. But, they are preventable, provided establishments are rigorous in implementing safety measures. This encompasses everything from non-contact handwashing stations to cleaning schedules and air quality. A good food hygiene rating serves as a visual reminder to customers that they can feel confident enjoying a delicious meal courtesy of your establishment, knowing you’ve done everything in your power to keep them safe.
When staff use your equipment properly, research shows that they are more likely to perform tasks in a way that preserves the longevity of your equipment, saving you money on fixing or replacing it.
Whether you’re heading up a global chain or a single food truck, business owners big and small are tasked with acting in the best interests of the environment. Regulations are there to help guide us when it comes to lessening consumption, promoting recycling, disposing of waste safely and reducing our own carbon footprints.
The UK is leading the charge in greener earth initiatives - and that includes being more conscious in the management and disposal of FOGS which can spell trouble for the local sewage network and the surrounding environment.
No, regulations aren’t the most exciting part of running a catering business, and yes, implementing changes can be tedious, but the effort will ultimately be worth it, saving you countless headaches and, potentially, a great deal of money in the form of fines and legal fees.
Please note that while there are certainly broad universal rules that you need to adhere to, some of the specifics tend to vary from region to region, so it’s essential to get acquainted with the regulations that apply in your own part of the world.
So, you know why you have to follow commercial kitchen regulations, but what are the specifics? Broadly speaking, three key categories of regulations that apply in the catering industry are food hygiene, food waste and ventilation.
According to the FSA, in 2020, local authorities recorded almost 71,000 food safety complaints – 5 per cent more than the year before. With hygiene on everyone’s minds, the most important thing you can do is ensure that you apply pristine practices within your kitchen in order to protect your business and its people.
Maintaining high standards throughout your food business has never been more important; according to a recent study from KAM Media, consumers considered cleanliness and hygiene to be more important than atmosphere when making decisions on where to eat out. And nearly 2 in 3 agree that hospitality hygiene has become more important since the pandemic.
In the UK, as you know, legislation relating to food and drink is enforced by the Foods Standards Agency (FSA):
“The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for food safety and food hygiene in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They oversee food services registration and food premises approval.”
There are three key areas of food safety and hygiene legislation you need to be aware of in Great Britain:
If you haven’t already, now is the time to implement a rigorous food safety management system throughout your business. A standardised way of managing food safety hazards in catering establishments big and small, is with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). This involves looking at your business through fresh, objective eyes, identifying hazards and taking stock of where things have the potential to go wrong.
You can then give those areas special attention, working as needed to bring them up to the correct standard, and identify any actions you need to take in the short and long term. When making such changes, it is essential that you are scrupulous with your record- keeping; you need to be able to look back and see at a glance what is working, where, and to what extent.
The basic principles of HACCP are as follows:
Spotting chemical, physical and biological hazards – especially those within your own control. Examples of biological hazards include pathogens, such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, which can cause illnesses.
If you think of your food production process as a journey, critical control points or CCPs are the stops along the way – any point where a new control can be added in to help negate risks or hazards. Work out what they are by using a decision tree designed specifically for the purpose.
Once you’ve identified where your hazards are, you need to work out the exact point where they become a risk, measuring using variables such as pH level, weight or temperature.
Settle on what elements of food hygiene, health and safety you will be keeping an eye on, how often, and who within your team will be responsible for overseeing each task.
Accidents happen, but if they do, review your food production process so you can isolate the incident. This will help you put measures in place to make sure the same incident does not occur a second time.
Every single check and action listed in your plan should contribute to the safe production of food. Review records, check instrument calibration, test food products - anything that helps put your mind at rest.
Of every single procedure and action – no matter how big or small. These documents help you check how you have analysed hazards over time - and are the best way to prove how thorough you have been, should the day ever come when you need to.
Whether you’re designing a new restaurant or looking to enhance the safety of your existing one, you should ask yourself the following important questions to ensure that the environment is safe for staff and employees.
Does the layout and design of my space promote good food hygiene?
Are surfaces, floors, walls and doors safe, durable, non-toxic and easy to clean? Are ceilings and overhead fittings likely to become hotbeds for condensation and mould? Do you have all the washing facilities you need to comply with legislation around cleaning food and utensils?
How good is my water supply?
Is all water used to clean, cook, heat, steam food and turn into ice of drinking quality? Is water used for non-food purposes kept isolated so it cannot contaminate?
How are my washrooms?
Are they easy to clean? Are staff up to date on hygiene practices, particularly in this post- pandemic period?
Are my kitchens and washrooms properly ventilated?
Are there windows, fans, ventilation, and other equipment such as air sanitisers in place to help keep condensation and bacteria at bay?
How is my food waste management?
Is waste being removed from food prep areas as quickly as possible? Are containers designed to prevent contamination, deter pests, be easy to clean and so on?
How is my food storage?
Is food being stored for the appropriate time, at the appropriate temperature, in appropriate containers, in the appropriate place?
Have my staff received the very best training?
Are employees up to date in their food safety and hygiene training? Do they truly understand the value of putting these learnings into practice?
To ensure you keep abreast of the latest developments in food safety and hygiene while building on the foundational learnings upheld throughout your business, be sure to refer to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for more information.
As the owner of a catering business, coming up with an effective food waste management plan is essential. And, since future regulation will only place more and more pressure on businesses to reduce or eliminate food waste altogether, it’s crucial to implement environmentally and ethically sound strategies.
At present, you may be unable to destroy certain food waste types on site. Here, we refer to hazardous waste that may pose a threat to the environment and attract vermin and bacteria as it deteriorates. Extreme caution must be practised to ensure that this kind of waste does not end up in your local sewage system.
The FSA offers comprehensive details around the rules on food waste management, but here’s a quick roundup:
This last one happens to be one of our areas of expertise. While FOGS (Fats, Oils, Grease and Starches) represent one of the biggest challenges for operators of commercial kitchens, implementing a few well-chosen practices and pieces of equipment throughout your catering space can help stop the FOGS and food waste that finds its way into the water in your establishment from becoming a kitchen nightmare.
According to Section 111 of the Water Industry Act 1991, uncontrolled discharge of FOGS from a food service establishment is a criminal offence. This means that every effort should be taken to minimise the food waste and FOGS that get to sinks, associated appliances and discharge points. If you are letting any matter pass into your drains which is likely to stop them from flowing and functioning properly - either deliberately or accidentally - you could reasonably be prosecuted by the Water Company as it seeks to preserve its sewer network.
While all this sounds alarming, it’s worth noting that releasing FOGS into the sewage system isn’t an inevitable problem for restaurants; there is plenty you can do to stop grease from being present in your wastewater.
There are a variety of options available to you when it comes to effective grease management including grease traps, grease removal units, biological dosing systems or a combination of these.
The best way to avoid problems with FOGS is to avoid your waste entering the water system in the first place. How?
Your commercial kitchen ventilation equipment is responsible for keeping your staff and patrons safe and comfortable. This makes correct installation, regular maintenance and best practice utilisation an absolute must. Here are a few of the regulations which may apply to you:
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that employers are responsible for providing effective and suitable ventilation in every enclosed workplace to make it safe and comfortable. Mechanical extraction via a canopy hood is required to remove fumes and vapours and discharge them to a safe location. The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 extend these requirements as they apply to the gas appliances found in most catering premises. Likewise, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that employers are legally required to provide a safe working environment and conditions that do not pose a threat to employee health, as is practical.
So, what should be on your list of priorities when selecting an effective commercial kitchen ventilation system?
Your canopy hood has a vital role to play in the proper ventilation of your space, so make sure you choose wisely. With so many different styles and features out there, it is important to consider the capture area of the hood you’ve chosen and whether it provides sufficient cover for the cooker or appliance below. You can work closely
with your installation professional to work out what is a) possible, and b) suitable for your kitchen. You’ll need to know where and at what height the hood will be mounted and whether the exhaust performance is sufficient for your needs. When selecting a hood for your commercial kitchen, you should:
Your kitchen’s design will significantly impact airflow in your kitchen. To maximise the effectiveness of your commercial kitchen ventilation system, you need to ensure that equipment, food prep stations and cleaning areas are positioned in a logical, practical order that allows for adequate ventilation, while ensuring safety and hygiene.
While larger kitchens are likely to require a mechanical extraction system with a fan and a filter, ventilation in smaller kitchens may be as simple as air supplied via ventilation grills in windows, walls or doors. When choosing your commercial kitchen ventilation solutions, the emphasis should be on selecting professional, industrial systems - and looking after them as best you can.
Proper maintenance of your commercial kitchen ventilation requirements falls into three main categories: daily, weekly, and as needed.
Keeping your kitchen well ventilated is essential - both from a legal perspective when it comes to sorting your insurance, and, more importantly, to keep your staff safe, happy and comfortable as they work. Look for an accredited specialist that can ensure your installations are compliant and provide support when it comes to maintenance and testing.
For years, Mechline has served the foodservice and hospitality industry, delivering innovative, quality solutions that enhance hygiene, safety, environmental initiatives and the efficiency of restaurants and commercial kitchens.
We have specialist knowledge and experience when it comes to food and FOGS waste management, in particular. So, if you’re looking for ways to ensure that your business has the best FOGS management solution in place, we invite you to book a call and find out more about our consultative services, as well as our industry-leading FOGS management systems.
For more information on the topic of regulations, please consult the following websites and government agencies: