1 August 1997

REGULATIONS THAT PROVIDE MUCH FOOD FOR THOUGHT

ALL catering establishments are covered by the Food Safety Act 1990 and the Food Safety Regulations 1995.

The Food Safety Act deals mainly with structure and environment. It specifies ventilation standards, finish on floors, walls and surfaces, which must be smooth and easily cleaned.

The Food Safety Regulations are concerned more with procedures, such as fridge temperatures and the correct storage, handling and preparation of food.

"These are areas you simply have to get to grips with," explains catering consultant Anne Sugden. "The Health and Safety Inspectorate will also be interested in things like the floor finish, which must be one that does not become slippery when wet."

The Food Safety Regulations require that staff be trained how to stock fridges and store different types of foods, correct temperatures for fridges, rinse cycles in dishwashers and even at what temperature to serve ice cream.

"Staff do not have to take a qualification known as the Food Hygiene Certificate, but it is certainly advisable," says Anne. "Clothing other than everyday wear should be worn for preparing and serving food, and there should be no smoking by staff. Its death to food handling because of contact with the lips.

"Despite a common misconception, there is no rule that hair should be covered. But if it is long hair it should be tied back and not allowed to dangle over food. There is also no requirement for separate toilets for customers and staff."

Environmental Health Officers, who are responsible for policing both sets of legislation, have the right of entry unannounced at any time. They visit catering establishments at least once every couple of years.

Although health officers will give some guidance at the setting up stage, their job is to police the operation. So they cannot be expected to give detailed advice, explains Anne.