A sharp rise in home food selling during the COVID-19 pandemic could be posing a threat to health and safety according to Bureau Veritas, experts in food safety compliance.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has already highlighted the “concerning” rise in people selling food largely through social media but failing to register as a food business. Now Bureau Veritas is urging entrepreneurial cooks to check and follow their compliance requirements before selling food – or risk fines from the local authority.
Figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) based on data from nearly 200 local authorities show around 44% of new businesses started since the first COVID-19 lockdown are home-based. However, many business-savvy cooks are failing to register with the local authority and achieve compliance. The UK has some of the most stringent food safety laws in the world, with obligations around hygiene, packaging, labelling, waste management, allergen management and more.
Bureau Veritas, which offers a dedicated food team working with food producers and retailers of all sizes to help maintain compliance, is pressing businesses selling food from home to ensure they’re adhering to the necessary health, hygiene and safety rules or they could face fines.
Rachel Baldwin, Food ICC Manager at Bureau Veritas, said: “Anyone producing food at home for sale (or giving it away on a regular and organised basis) must register with their local authority under food safety laws. This is followed by an inspection to help maintain food hygiene, but it appears many of these new lockdown ventures are not following the necessary procedures.
“All food sellers should have basic hygiene training; their premises should be adequate for food preparation (covering everything from handwashing and changing stations to food preparation areas and the quality of interior surfaces) and they must have food waste management procedures in place.
“What’s more, often people will have pets at home, which present issues such as cross contamination that must also be managed carefully. Hence, there is a lot more to consider too, from pest control and fire safety to basic health & safety principles and safe deliveries in food grade packaging and appropriate temperature control”.
According to Bureau Veritas, there are also more complex food safety management procedures such as the need for a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) management system, in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of potential hazards, and allergen labelling management.
Rachel adds: “From October 2021, new law requires any food which is pre-packed for direct sale to be labelled with a list of ingredients including emphasised allergens.
“Clearly this brings a complex myriad of challenges and requirements for food sellers, but food safety laws cannot be ignored. Achieving and maintaining compliance is an absolute necessity, even for those operating from home. The good news is the FSA have various documents that can be utilised such as frameworks for HACCP plans. “Ultimately though, failing to register as a food business means hygiene arrangements are not being checked by local authorities – putting sellers at risk of a fine and their customers at risk of harm.”