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Starting a food business - Farm Shops (1)

This is the first of two blogs written by Clare Grantham, from The Safer Food Group.

The Safer Food Group is a market leading company meeting the training needs of food businesses. Our online training is suited to small producers, manufacturers, retailers and caterers, who require flexible, value-for-money training.

Legislation and food safety

Starting a food business can leave you in a tangle of red tape, unless you know where to start. We’ve outlined the process below and highlighted some things to consider, as well as signposting useful links for the new farm shop owner.

First things first: Food Business registration

If you are not already registered as a food business, or you are taking over an existing food business from someone else, you must register online with your local authority before you start trading. It is against the law to trade as a food business without registration – but making yourself known to your local authority gives you access to your local food safety team (including EHOs) who can be a valuable source of support and information when you are setting up.

Food business registration is required by any business which

  • sells food

  • cooks food

  • stores or handles food

  • prepares food

  • distributes food, including:

· restaurants, cafes and takeaways

· catering businesses run from home, B&Bs, mobile catering and temporary businesses

· marquees, food stalls, food pop ups and food vans

· nurseries, schools and care homes

· distance selling, mail order and food delivery including online

You will also need planning permission if you want to change how you use your land or buildings from farming to something else. Before you do so, consider the health and safety implications of allowing access of general public to farm land – for instance impact on traffic flow, access and egress of domestic vehicles, and safety of individuals once on your property.

If you are planning to take your food business out on the road – perhaps as a food truck or stall, you may need further permissions. Check out the UK Government website, Business Wales, or NI Business Info for details of permits and licences required for mobile food businesses or street trading.

Your VAT liability is likely to differ from other parts of your farm business. VAT rates will depend on the type of product you sell; for instance: food products catering and takeaway food seeds and plants Check with your accountant if you need further clarification

Premises and Facilities

You will need to demonstrate that you have suitable premises and facilities to be able to prepare and / or sell food safely, including the following:

Premises must be clean, in good repair, and suitable for safe food preparation – for example, secure from pests. Provision must be made for waste disposal that does not encourage pests.

The physical space must be suitable for food preparation, including walls, ceilings and surfaces that are easy to keep clean, without peeling paint or other potential contaminants. Light and ventilation must be adequate.

You must have adequate, separate provision for handwashing, including hot water, and suitable areas for changing into clean work clothes. There must also be adequate facilities for equipment, crockery and cutlery washing and disinfection, and equipment must be in good working order.

For a more complete list of the expectations for premises and facilities, check the FSA’s Setting up a Food Business page

Food Safety

One of a food business operator’s fundamental legal responsibilties is to ensure that their food is safe to eat. Food safety encompasses a range of measures, including:

  • Creating and using a Food Safety Management, or HACCP, plan. This is a written plan that is used to risk assess, manage and record food preparation processes, from cleaning schedules and supplier records to temperature monitoring and stock rotation.

  • Being aware of the risks and laws surrounding Food Allergens, and ensuring customers can consume your food without risk of harm from allergenic ingredients.

  • If you buy in some of your produce, managing any external suppliers, ensuring that they are committed to providing you with food that is safe to eat and ensuring that all of your ingredients can be traced back to their original source.

  • Ensuring that you and your staff are adequately trained and / or supervised, understand all elements of good food hygiene practice, including how to deal with allergens, and can undertake all necessary tasks in a way which eliminates the risks of unsafe food. Make sure that any training that you undertake is designed for the correct level and staff role – for example, Level 2 Food Hygiene and Allergen training for all food handlers, or those running a very simple food operation, and Level 3 Food Hygiene for those in a managerial or supervisory role. A reputable training provider will be able to supply you with a syllabus and sample of learning material, so you can check it is right for your needs.

The list above may seem daunting, but one really key point to remember, is that there are many resources available to help you. If you have any doubts about setting up and running your food business, seek out advice from your local authority food safety team, and your Environmental Health Officer. They will help you to operate safely, legally and, if you get things right, will be able to award you that all important 5 star rating – good luck!

Further reading:

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