School sites may offer a variety of meal options including a more formal sit down meal service to a grab and go offering. Whether you have a café, a dining hall, or a grab and go concession, the rules in relation to food hygiene are the same.
Our team of experienced ex-enforcement officers have first-hand knowledge and experience of auditing food businesses. Below they share their insight into the 5 key areas every school should consider for safe food production:
1. Cleanliness and Pest Control
The build-up of grease, grime and food waste within food premises will provide an excellent breeding ground for pathogenic bacteria. Good standards of cleaning and disinfection are essential for all food and hand contact surfaces for example worktops, chopping boards, fridge door handles, light switches, and knives. To prevent cross-contamination, work clothing should be kept clean, and hand washing between tasks should be normal practice.
It may seem obvious, but stringent pest control is essential. Be vigilant for signs of pest activity within your school 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 waste promptly, and keeping the refuse area clean. Seal all cracks and gaps between walls and ceilings, and store food off the floor in sealed containers. Clean floors regularly to remove sticky residues.
2. Temperature Control
It is essential that foods are stored, cooked and delivered at the correct temperatures. Monitor temperatures of fridges and freezers at least twice daily and keep a record of these checks. You should also keep a log of delivery temperatures, and make sure that you monitor a sample of high-risk food items during cooking to ensure that the safe temperature and time combination is achieved. Good temperature monitoring practices, accompanied by records, will provide a useful defence in the event of a food poisoning allegation.
Quick guide – Temperature Advice
3. 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 used 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 labelled 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.
4. Staff training
Provide suitable training to staff according to their role. For example, a Head Chef in a large scale school dining hall will typically need a higher level qualification (Level 3 – Supervising Food Safety) whilst other staff or those operating in smaller school cafes would typically only require Level 2 Food Safety (the most commonly obtained qualification for food handlers).
Regardless of the size of your school dining hall, always 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.
5. 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 meal planner, menu or allergen matrix).
As a reminder the 14 Allergens are:
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 run a tiny cafe or a full-scale dining hall operation, 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 school requirements and cut the laboriousness out of daily checks and due diligence trails. Get in touch to find out how we help your school.