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 and may attract pests. 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.  It is advised that temperatures of fridges and freezers are monitored at least twice daily with a record of these checks kept. 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 or complaint. 

Quick guide – Temperature Advice

health and safety advice food temperature food safety southalls

3. Food Storage and Separation 

Aside from storing food at the correct temperature, it should also be stored in such a way that it prevents cross-contamination 

Storing raw and high-risk foods: 

  • Ready-to-eat foods should be placed on the top shelves of the chiller
  • Raw foods which are to be cooked should be placed below ready-to-eat foods
  • Raw meat should be stored underneath all other foods or in a separate fridge if space allows
  • Raw Poultry should be stored below other raw meats

All foods should be clearly labelled with the correct use by or best before dates. Refer to the manufacturers’ durability labelling and bear in mind that vacuum-packed foods or foods packaged in hermetically sealed containers will not carry forward the given durability date once the packaging has been penetrated.

Further information can be found by checking out the Food Standards Agency guidance on food storage or by contacting Southalls who have a team of former regulatory officers blah blah blah. 

4. Staff training

The law requires that food handlers are suitably trained commensurate with the role they undertake.  For example, a head chef in a large scale school dining hall might typically be expected to hold a higher level qualification, whereas for other staff, or those operating smaller school cafes, a basic qualification may well be sufficient.  

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.

Southalls can advise on the levels of qualification that might be needed blah blah blah

5. Allergen Awareness

It is critical that allergens are controlled in all food operations and with children more likely to have an allergy than adults, this is especially vital that the risks are controlled in the school environment.  

It is advised that schools tackle allergens slightly differently to regular food businesses.  This is because in schools all the food consumers are known in advance.  It therefore makes sense to collate a record of all of the allergies and intolerances prior to pupils starting.

 Special measuresshould be introduced for preparing meals for pupils with an allergy.  Have separate areas, croquery and cutlery to ensure no mistakes can easily be made and there is no risk of accidental contamination.

It is still important that those involved in the preparation of food understand allergens and are aware of the legal requirements in relation to the ‘14 allergens’.

There are various training providers, but the Food Standards Agency has an excellent free e-learning syllabus: https://allergytraining.food.gov.uk/ which covers everything you will need to know.

As a reminder the 14 Allergens are:

Tip: Food ingredients should not be substituted for an alternative ingredient. 

Tip: Ensure new and temporary/agency staff have an understanding of allergens and controls.

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.