Your Concise Guide to Starting a Food Business

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A small food business could be just what you’re looking for if you are ready for a new adventure in your career. Whether it’s a café, a street food van vendor or a restaurant, when you’re running a small food business for the first time, it’s important that you understand how to handle, store and serve the food that you sell.

Your key to success is ensuring that you keep your customers safe, and ensure your produce is safe to eat and free from any allergens. You should follow the EU Food Regulations to make sure the food that you serve is correct as per the regulations. Erudus, a company which stores and shares food labelling information within a data pool for customers’ benefit, has helped to put together this start-up guide for those aiming to run their own small food business:

Before you open
Before you can open your business to the public, you’ll need to register your business and premises with the environmental health services – it is free to register and should be done 28 days before you plan to open. Just remember that if you have more than one premises then you’ll need to register them all, even after you have registered one under the same name.

Reliable suppliers
Your business can only be as good as the quality of your supplies – poor supplies equate to poor produce, and you need to be able to rely on your supplier. Supplier reliability will have an impact upon the safety and quality of the food that you serve to your consumers. By checking produce carefully, you should aim to ensure that all the produce that you receive from a supplier has been stored, processed and handled safely before it is in your care. Some other things that you should consider when food is delivered to your business are as follows:

  1. Are chilled and frozen foods cold enough?
  2. Is the packaging damaged?
  3. Is it what you ordered?

If your supplies arrive and you are suspicious of some products, you are within your rights, as a business owner, to contact the supplier and reject them.

Food labelling
All food produce that is for sale on your premises should be labelled and advertised correctly. They should in no way mislead any customers. This is stipulated by Article 16 of The General Food Law Regulation (EC) 178/2002. Labelling should clearly stipulate the product for sale, as well as address any allergen information contained within the food on the packaging.

How to trace your food
It is important to keep a record of where all your produce has come from, inclusive of food substances, and the food-producing animals that have helped towards supplying consumers with food – this is what is stipulated by Article 18 of The General Food Law Regulation, (EC) 178/2002. A food business should also state when and where they have supplied other businesses with produce, if they have done so. This information should be stored until the necessary authorities require it, should they ever need it.

How to avoid cross-contamination
In any food business, small or large, it should be a main priority to keep cooked food and raw produce separated to avoid cross-contamination. Making sure you store foods correctly and follow a process when preparing foods. When foods such as raw eggs, meat and poultry come into contact with cooked foods, this can cause cross-contamination. This is likely to occur when foods drip onto a clean surface, utensil or food product during the preparation process. As well as this, hands can also spread cross-contamination and bacteria so it’s important that hands are thoroughly cleaned after handling raw food produce. You should also remain aware of the 14 allergens list; you may have customers that have allergens – so you should make sure that you know what foods come into contact with each other when preparing foods to avoid allergen cross-contamination.

Storage and labelling should always be correct. When preparing food, stick to the following rules:

  • Keep raw meat/poultry and ready-to-eat foods separate at all times, including packaging material for ready-to-eat-food.
  • Wash your hands after handling meat/poultry, fish, eggs and unwashed fruit and vegetables.
  • Clean and wash work surfaces and equipment before and when handling these foods.
  • Prepare and store allergens in different areas of a kitchen and when serving them to the public.
  • Keep raw produce below ready-to-eat food in the fridge, or in a different fridge if this is possible.
  • Attempt to educate any new members of staff to the business on cross-contamination, allergen contamination and food hygiene.