Food safety regulations

All food operators have a legal duty to ensure that the food that they produce is safe to eat, of an acceptable quality and is properly labelled. They also have a legal duty to ensure that the health, safety and welfare of the public and any staff or contractors are protected from any hazards that arise from their operations.

Main duties

Under the Food Safety Act 1990 and the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006, you must not:

  • sell (or keep for sale) food that is unfit for people to eat
  • cause food to be dangerous to health
  • sell food that isn't what the customer is entitled to expect, in terms of content or quality
  • describe or present food in a way that is false or misleading

It is important to be able to demonstrate the positive steps taken by your business to ensure good food hygiene. If you were prosecuted, you would need to convince the court that you had taken all reasonable steps to avoid the offence you had been accused of (this is called a 'due diligence offence').

Premises registration

Article 6(2) of Regulation EC 852/2004 requires food businesses to be registered. There is no charge for this. Once registered, you only need to notify us of a change or proprietor or if the nature of the business changes. Apply to register a food business.

Hygiene requirements

Regulation EC 852/2004 sets out the basic hygiene principles that food businesses must follow in relation to staff, premises and food handling.

Under the regulations, you must have effective controls necessary to avoid contamination, to ensure that food is produced safely and that the health of your customers is not put at risk. The controls include requirements that you have:

  • premises that are clean and in good state of repair
  • good drainage, lighting and ventilation
  • sufficient waste disposal facilities
  • toilet facilities for staff
  • equipment is in good condition and kept clean
  • permanent arrangements for pest control which guard against infestation by rats, mice, flies, cockroaches and other insects
  • an effective cleaning routine
  • staff who are appropriately clothed and trained and have good personal hygiene habits
  • arrangements for ensuring that all foods received into the premises are in good condition
  • handling, storage and transport practices which meet temperature control requirements and avoid contamination
  • put in place, implemented and maintained a permanent procedure or procedures based on the HACCP principles

You must identify potential hazards associated with your business and introduce practices which will control the risks and to ensure food safety.

Looking for food safety dangers  

It is the responsibility of the owners and managers of a food business to ensure that their business complies with Food Safety Regulations. It is important that all risks to people arising from the operations undertaken by the business are assessed and properly controlled. This is for both food safety and occupational health purposes.

The Food Safety Management System

All food businesses are required to have a food safety management system. Businesses will need to look at each stage of food preparation and production and identify what might go wrong with the food they sell and what they must do to ensure that the food is safe for customers.  In addition, the person with daily control of the business is required to be trained in the food safety management system they have implemented.

The Food Standards Agency has developed a 'Safer Food, Better Business' pack to help small businesses put in place food safety management procedures and to help businesses comply with food hygiene regulations. To download their information packs, view training videos and get further advice about starting a food business, visit the Food Standards Agency website.

Further information on Covid-19 can be found on Coronavirus business and employers.

Temperature control

The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 require certain foods to be held at temperatures that will prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. It is an offence to allow food to be kept at temperatures that would cause a risk to health, so you must make sure that any foods that need temperature control are kept at the right temperature.

Foods that need to be kept hot should be kept at 63oC or above.

Foods that need to be kept cold should be kept at 8oC or below (preferably at 5oC or below).

Foods that need to be kept frozen should be kept between -18oC to -24oC.

All food inspections are published as a hygiene rating on the UK Food Standards Agency website.

Report a concern about food safety

If you are concerned about a particular food business, you can report report an unsafe/unhygienic food place online.