As Garden Centres prepare to fully reopen their restaurants and cafes following the third, and hopefully final lockdown of 2020/2021, our team of experienced ex-enforcement officers share their insight into 5 key areas every garden centre should consider for safe food production:
Cleanliness and Pest Control
Poor cleanliness provides a breeding ground for microorganisms and may result in cross-contamination. Stringent cleanliness is crucial for worktops, floors, common touchpoints, and equipment including, but not limited to, 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, bodies, gnawed packaging, nesting materials, smear marks and holes or gaps to the walls or around pipe work. Proactive solutions include sealing waste bins when full, disposing of them quickly, and changing bin liners regularly. Seal all cracks and gaps in the structure of the premises and store food off the floor, in sealed containers. Regular pest control visits and in house checks should be undertaken to ensure no infestation has occurred.
Ensure foods are cooked thoroughly, refrigerated foods and frozen foods stored at correct temperatures, and deliveries enter the garden centre 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
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.
Provide suitable training to staff according to their role. For example, a Head Chef in a large scale garden centre restaurant will typically need a higher level qualification (Level 3) whilst remaining staff or those operating in smaller garden centre cafes would typically only require Level 2 Food Safety (the most commonly obtained qualification for food handlers).
Regardless of the size of your garden centre restaurant, 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.
You will need to know the presence of all allergens in each dish and have a means of communicating this to customers (typically via an allergen matrix).
As a reminder the 14 Allergens, where declaration is required, 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. Ensure a suitable procedure is in place for the management of allergens, which all food handlers have been trained on.
As an additional note, from 1 October 2021, all foods prepackaged for direct sale will require labelling with the name of the food and a full ingredients list, with allergenic ingredients emphasised within the list.
Whether you run a tiny cafe or a 200 cover full-scale restaurant 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 garden centre needs and cut the laboriousness out of daily checks and due diligence trails. Get in touch to find out how we help other garden centres and how we can help you at firstname.lastname@example.org.