Christmas is the busiest time of the year for businesses in catering and hospitality. The profitability of this time of year can make or break your business and customer expectations are high. The decorations are up, the lights are twinkling, the Christmas menu printed and extra staff are brought in to meet demand. But failure to consider food safety and allergen awareness at this time will leave your business vulnerable.

Our team of experienced ex-enforcement officers have first-hand knowledge of dealing with food poisoning allegations and complaints at this time of year. Below they share their insight into the 5 key areas to consider for safe food production during the festive season:  

Cleanliness and Pest Control

Poor cleanliness provides a breeding ground for bacteria and may result in the redistribution of microbiological contamination. Stringent cleanliness is crucial for worktops, floors, door handles, light switches, and equipment including chopping boards, knives etc. Clothing and aprons should also be kept clean and regular hand washing between tasks should be normal practice.

It may seem obvious but pest control is essential. Be vigilant for signs of pest entry including: droppings, gnawed packaging, nesting materials, smear marks and chewed holes to the walls or around pipes. Proactive solutions include sealing waste bins properly when full, disposing of them quickly, and changing bin liners regularly. Seal all cracks and gaps between walls and ceilings and store food away from the floor, in sealed containers.

Temperature Control

Ensure foods are cooked thoroughly, refrigerated foods and frozen foods stored at correct temperatures and deliveries enter the site under correct temperature control. Keep a twice daily record of these checks. This will provide a useful defence in event of a food poisoning allegation.

Quick guide – Temperature Advice

TemperatureSituation
75oC for 30 Seconds (or equivalent)  Minimum core temperature for all cooked food products Other time and temperature combinations:

  • 60°C for 45 minutes
  • 65°C for 10 minutes
  • 70°C for 2 minutes
75oC (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) 82oC (Scotland) Minimum core temperature for the reheating of foods. Any left-over food after reheating once must be discarded.
63oCMinimum temperature for hot holding food e.g. in a bain marie for more than two hours. Foods held below 63oC on a single occasion should be discarded after two hours.
8oCMaximum temperature for chilled foods.
5oCBest practice temperature for chilled foods.
-18oCMaximum temperature for freezers to operate at. Frozen food should not be allowed to rise above -15oC.

Food Storage and Separation

Aside from storing food at the correct temperature, it should also be stored to prevent cross contamination (particularly between raw and ready to eat foods) and stored within its use by date.

Storing raw and high-risk foods:

  • High-risk ready-to-eat foods should be placed on the top shelves of the chiller
  • Ready-to-eat raw foods should be placed below high-risk foods
  • Raw foods which are to be cooked should be placed below high-risk and ready-to-eat foods

All foods should be clearly labeled with the correct use by or best before dates.

Further information can be found by checking out the Food Standards Agency guidance on food storage: https://www.food.gov.uk/business-industry/food-hygiene/shelf-life-storage

We also always recommend using separate (colour coded) chopping boards for cooked meat, raw meat, raw fish, vegetables, salads and dairy products.

Staff training

Provide suitable training to staff according to their role. For example, a Head Chef will need a higher level (L3) of training than a kitchen porter. L2 Food Safety is the most commonly obtained qualification for food handlers.

Have a competent person in charge of your kitchen, someone who understands the necessity of good food hygiene standards and is able to oversee all operations.

Allergen Awareness

You will need to know the presence of all allergens in each dish and have a means of communicating this to customers (typically via the menu or allergen matrix).

As a reminder the 14 Allergens are:

1) Celery 2) Gluten 3) Crustaceans 4) Eggs 5) Fish 6) Lupin 7) Milk 8) Molluscs 9) Mustard 10) Nuts 11) Peanuts 12) Sesame 13) Soya 14) Sulphur Dioxide

Food ingredients should never be substituted for an alternative ingredient. Managers should brief all staff regarding allergen controls, including new and temporary staff.

Whether you are a multi-sited restaurant chain, or an independent café, our Food Safety Specialists are ex-enforcement officers with the background and knowledge to keep your business compliant.

We can offer advice specific to your business needs, and cut the laboriousness out of daily checks and due diligence trails. Get in touch to find out how we help your food business.