The Food Safety Act 1990 and regulations made under it make it an offence for anyone to sell or process food for sale which is harmful to health. They also place an obligation on businesses to ensure that their activities are carried out in a hygienic way.
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An estimated five million people suffer from food poisoning in England and Wales each year. Running a food business means that you have a particular responsibility for protecting the health of your customers.
Staff in the Environmental and Health Service are always willing to give guidance on how the law relates to your business. If you need advice, do not hesitate to contact us using the details at the top of this page.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do 'Use-by' and 'Best before' dates mean and is it illegal for a shop to have out-of-date food on display?
'Use by' dates are found on perishable products, such as dairy, meat and fish. After that date, food could be unsafe to eat even if it is stored correctly and looks and smells fine.
'Best before' dates are used on foods that have a longer shelf life and tell us how long the food will be at its best. After that date it is normally safe to eat, but its flavour and texture might have deteriorated.
It is not illegal for a shop to sell food past its best before date unless it is found to be unfit. It is illegal to offer for sale food past its use by date, or to use such food as ingredients in a catering premise.
What temperature should you store food at?
High risk foods (ie those foods that are ready to eat without further cooking) should be stored in a refrigerator below 8oc. Ideally a domestic refrigerator will have a thermometer (available at low cost from most supermarkets) which identifies easily the ideal temperatures (1-5oc). Remember to always store raw meats below cooked/ready to eat foods.
What should I do if I find insects in my food?
Most insects found in dry produce are harmless. They usually live in, or under the packaging or labels. Once in your store cupboards they will rapidly spread from one pack to another. For this reason it is virtually impossible for officers to link the infestation to one particular product. Advice on how to effectively clean after an infestation of 'psocids' can be obtained from the Food Team. If you suspect that the insects are cockroaches then you should contact this service immediately for further advice.
Do staff that handle food have to be trained in food hygiene?
All staff that work in any food premises have to be trained in food hygiene practices sufficiently to carry out their job safely. This usually means obtaining a Level 2 food hygiene qualification or equivalent if they are handling high-risk foods. Some larger organisations will provide this training in house.
Can the Council close down food businesses that don't comply with hygiene standards?
In extreme cases, where there is an imminent risk to health Environmental Health Officers can serve an Emergency Prohibition Notice to prohibit the use of a premise or a practice or even equipment. Any closure of this nature has immediate effect but must be confirmed by a magistrate's court at a later date
I want to open a new food business, do I need a licence?
No licences are required, but the food business must be registered. Registration does not cost anything, you simply complete a form giving the details of your business.
I am not sure if my business has the correct planning usage, how do I find out?
For further information on planning issues please contact the planning department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I get a liquor licence?
Further information regarding liquor licensing.
I want to buy a burger van and trade from the roadside, can I do this?
We do not grant licences for traders to set up stalls or for mobile vehicles to sell food. If you wish to sell food from a van you must register your business. There are specific areas within Stafford Borough which are prohibited to all street traders. If you find a location from which you wish to trade you must obtain the landowners permission, before you start trading. Most of the lay-by's belong to Staffordshire County Council. Enquiries to SCC can be made by telephoning 0300 111 8002 or by visiting their website.
I would like to buy an existing food business. Can you tell me if the business complies with the current environmental health legislation?
We appreciate your wish to comply with the legislation. However, we cannot discuss the details of a business with a third party. You are advised to ask a solicitor to make a land search on the property concerned and to ask the specific environmental health questions. We will then disclose any formal notices that have been served on the property. Alternatively, you may wish to obtain the written permission of the current owners for us to disclose any outstanding matters. We would be happy to meet you on site to discuss your proposals for the business provided the current owners give their permission.
I'd like to make some cakes and jam to sell at a local market and perhaps at boot sales. What do I have to do?
You may have to register your home address as a food business. This will mean that an officer will visit your home to inspect the kitchen where you make the cakes and jam. Please ring 01785 619402 for further advice.
Does Stafford Borough Council have a food sampling programme?
We carry out sampling most months of the year and the plan changes each year in relation to the types of businesses in the district and any topical problem areas.
How can I make a complaint about an item of food I have bought?
If you have a problem with an item of food you can report it to the Food Team and an Officer will investigate the complaint. You will have to pass the food item and the packaging over to the Officer. The section's prime concern is to ensure that there is not a recurring problem, however in some circumstances legal proceedings may follow from the investigation, at which you would be required as a witness. In any instance we cannot guarantee a replacement or compensation from the manufacturer/retailer. Alternatively you may wish to complain to the retailer who will be able to investigate on your behalf, in these instances you would be advised not to hand over the complaint until you have been contacted by the manufacturers or the importers.
As a caterer where can I find out information relating to allergens?
The Food Standards Agency have provided guidance notes on the food labelling legislation to provide informal guidance on food allergen labelling for pre-packed foods. They aim to help manufacturers, retailers, caterers and enforcement authorities ensure consistent and transparent labelling.
For further information see Food Standards Agency website.