Your kitchen forms a critical part of your school’s provision, feeding hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of students, staff and visitors each day. It’s therefore vital that all food is sourced, supplied and prepared in line with strict health and safety requirements.
We’ve helped hundreds of schools raise hygiene standards, reduce hazards and prevent costly claims – and we understand that solid kitchen practices depend on a few fundamental factors. Here’s a four-point plan to serve up every meal safely.
1.Implement a food safety management system
It’s a legal requirement for all food businesses, including schools, to have a formal food safety management system based on the principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point). This document is much like a risk assessment, identifying food safety threats throughout the production process. It should pinpoint pre-requisite measures regarding:
- How food must be stored and prepared
- Which stages in production and storage are crucial to food safety
- The critical limits to those stages, such as required minimum cooking temperatures to ensure food is thoroughly cooked
- How those limits will be monitored
- What to do if things go wrong
Some schools benefit from a bespoke food safety management system provided by the Local Authority or MAT. Others may use the Food Standards Agency’s system, called Safer Food, Better Business (SFBB). These resources will highlight primary controls such as, but by no means limited to:
- Safe storage processes, including temperature control
- Storage, preparation and cooking procedures to protect food from cross-contamination
- Cooking requirements for different foods, including core temperature and time combinations, or equivalent methods
- Time and temperature requirements for the safe cooling of food
- Temperature requirements for holding hot food for service
2. Provide the right team training
To ensure a safe, hygienic working environment, all food handlers and catering staff need the appropriate skills, knowledge and competencies. Training should consist of courses to recognised standards, which may be taught in-house, via e-learning or face-to-face at an offsite centre. Training for your catering team will typically include:
- Level 2 food hygiene for those handling open foods
- Level 3 food hygiene for supervisors and managers
- HACCP training for individuals in control of food safety management systems
- Allergen awareness for all staff
- In-house training on your food safety management system
3. Demonstrate due diligence
To prove that your food safety management system is being followed in practice, it’s important to maintain the correct data and documentation. However, the extent of record keeping varies from business to business.
Detailed records provide greater assurance that systems are being followed but are inherently more time-consuming. In a busy school kitchen, it’s necessary to find the right balance between productivity and precision.
Typical school kitchen records will cover:
- Deliveries – These should confirm compliant food and packaging, acceptable use-by dates, satisfactory van temperatures and pest-free conditions
- Fridge and freezer temperatures – Check at least once daily but typically at the start, part-way through and at the end of a shift
- Core temperatures of cooked and reheated food – Samples should be taken through the day
- Cooling records – These should include time cooling and finishing temperatures
- Temperature checks of food out for service
Opening and closing checks – Assess signs of pests, use-by dates on high-risk foods, cleanliness and supply levels of hot water, soap and paper towels at each washbasin
4. Allergen management
In recent years, allergen management has been a prominent, high profile issue faced by all food businesses, with the potential for deadly consequences. It’s essential that your school kitchen has a system in place to safeguard against allergic reactions to your ingredients.
At a minimum, this should include the provision of allergen information to those who ask for it – either through a ready-made document or a sign indicating it’s available on request. You may also include more comprehensive allergen data on menus, noticeboards and your website.
In primary schools, allergen information is normally gathered from parents/carers and shared with the catering team. These details should be used to plan, prepare and provide safe meals to those with food sensitivities.
Allergen management is a complex subject. For more guidance on reducing risks in your school kitchen, check out our dedicated article here.