Food Safety: Can I run a food business from home?

Food Safety: Can I run a food business from home? container

Food Safety: Can I run a food business from home? content

Initial Considerations

Over the last couple of years we have received an increasing number of enquiries from individuals hoping to start and run a food business from home. However where food provision is involved, this can present a whole range of problems which many people may not fully research and/or consider in the first instance, when looking to start up a food business. This guidance is intended for anyone who proposes to operate a food business from their own home. This might include preparing food at home to sell in a shop or from a market, or to other businesses, at events, etc.

The standards you will have to meet depend upon a number of factors including the nature, type and quantity of food you propose to prepare/make and also what else your kitchen is used for. At the very outset, you will need to talk to our Food Safety Team in Environmental Health to discuss further the requirements of current legislation and whether your proposal to operate a food business from home is a viable one at all from a food safety perspective. 

In general, any proposal which involves the preparation of food in anything more than small quantities and in particular, if the intention is to provide anything other than ‘low-risk’ foods e.g. bakery or confectionery products, should be operating from properly designed and equipped commercial premises - not from an ordinary domestic kitchen. The reason for this is quite simple. It is very difficult to achieve the standards required by law in respect of suitable facilities and hygiene in a domestic kitchen and hence provide safe food - if hygiene fails then contamination and food poisoning can quickly follow.

If a home-based food business is going to operate successfully and safely, then you will need to take account of the following points:-

Food Law: the laws in respect of food safety and standards will apply just the same to your food business as to any other commercial operation. You will be liable to inspection from our Food Safety Team in Environmental Health and like any other food business, you may face legal action if you do not comply with food law.

Your Kitchen: domestic kitchens are not designed for commercial use and may need some alteration in order to comply with the requirements of food hygiene legislation.

Common Problems with Domestic Kitchens and Facility Provision include:-

  • a readily accessible wash hand basin must be available in the kitchen for hand wash only
  • ensuring adequate facilities i.e. a sink/s and a dishwasher are provided for cleaning and disinfecting utensils and equipment etc. and for food washing where necessary. This will generally mean a double-sink or a sink and dishwasher facility, again dependent on the nature of what you propose to do.
  • inadequate worktop space within the kitchen in particular to facilitate strict separation and to prevent cross contamination etc.
  • worktops/surfaces require to be in good condition and repair and be easily cleanable
  • having sufficient refrigeration and freezer capacity, to enable food type separation (raw from cooked or ready to eat) and units which can also maintain food at 0 to 5°C or 8°C maximum for fridges and -18°C for freezers
  • decorative finishes e.g. on walls etc. must be easily cleanable
  • a toilet must not lead directly into the kitchen area (toilets must not lead directly into food rooms)

Separation

One of the most important hygiene considerations in food preparation/catering is ‘separation’. Even if you for example intend to home bake/make cakes which in itself is in general a low risk activity, you must also take into consideration what else you do in your kitchen. For example, if you prepare raw meat and unwashed salad or vegetables at any time in your home, you must take care to prevent any risk of cross contamination. Separate your domestic food preparation from commercial food preparation - spatial/physical separation i.e. the use of different areas for food preparation is the most effective method. In any case, you must make sure that before you begin ‘work’ that your kitchen is prepared to be your “work only kitchen” at this point. This will generally mean removing anything not required in the kitchen and thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting etc. the work surfaces, sink/s area, etc. prior to use. The use of separate or colour coded equipment is also recommended where necessary.

Training: Food handlers are required by law to have sufficient food safety knowledge and understanding to allow them to prepare and produce food safely. This will mean undertaking some form of formal food hygiene training (at least to Level 2/ Basic Food Hygiene course) the level of which will be dependent on the nature and type of foods you handle and prepare.

Food Safety Management System
All food businesses are required to think carefully/assess any food safety ‘hazards’ that may arise from their food operation and ensure that they control these in order to produce safe food. Like any other food business, you will have to keep some written records including basic policies and procedures to demonstrate how you produce safe food. This is called your Food Safety Management System (also known as Haccp).

The detail required within this document will depend on what sort/type of food you are proposing to make at home. Quite simply, the more complex/’high risk’ the food operation, the more detailed your food safety procedures will need to be. 

Food Standards CookSafe manual

Labelling and packaging of food – will need to be considered

  • Food must be properly labelled and comply with current legislative requirements.
  • Visit the Food Standards Agency website for more information and guidance on labelling.
  • Further advice can be obtained from our Food Safety Team.

Allergens
Under the Food Information Regulations 2014, you have a legal obligation to provide allergen information to any customer, on the presence of any of the 14 specified allergens in your food, whether used as, or in, an ingredient or as a processing aid. More information on allergens can be found on the Food Standards website.

Traceability
ou need to make sure that you can show where all of your ingredients have come from and where your products e.g. cakes etc. have gone to. Keep a record of your supplier details for ingredients and keep a record of your customers, product quantities and dates sold etc.

Fitness
To Work If you are unwell then you should not prepare food, particularly if you have food poisoning or a diarhoea and sickness type illness. You should wait until you have been free of all symptoms for at least 48 hours before preparing and handling food for your business. Take the time to consider now what you would do if you had a business order to fulfil and came down ill.

Other Considerations

Pets
Keep pets (including food bowls, litters, etc.) out of the kitchen/food preparation areas when you are preparing food. All surfaces/equipment must be thoroughly cleaned prior to you beginning your work for the day.

Washing Machines
Ideally washing machines and dryers should be located outside food rooms. In some circumstances this is not possible, and in these instances, NO laundry should be done while food is being prepared. Any laundry that is needed for the food business such as overalls, aprons, cloths, tea towels, etc. should be washed separately from domestic laundry.

Pest Control
You must ensure that your kitchen is always ‘pest-free’. This can be achieved with regular checking of the kitchen and cupboards for evidence of pests (droppings/nibbled food, crawling insects, etc.). Make sure that no food is left out overnight etc., that the kitchen is kept in a clean condition at all times and store foodstuffs in sealed containers. Additionally, remove any plants from your kitchen/food preparation area as these can attract and cause issues with the presence of insects particularly in the spring/summer. Any signs of pest activity should be treated straight away.

Can my children help me?
Young children and toddlers should be kept out of the kitchen while you prepare food for your business.

Food Premises Registration
All food businesses who sell food are required by law to register even if they only produce a very limited range of food from a domestic premises. At the outset, please contact our Food Safety team for advice and to discuss your food business proposal and its’ viability in the context of compliance with the above standards. Beyond that, any new food business must register at least 28 days before starting-up. You can access a form for your completion by visiting the food premises registration page of this website.

Contact Us for Advice
Remember it is your responsibility under food law to provide safe food to any customers. As detailed above, we would advise you to contact us for further advice to discuss any proposed food business start-up once you have read and fully considered the above guidance.

You can contact the Food Safety Team on 01382 433710 or via food.safety@dundeecity.gov.uk.

Additional Information and contacts:-

Planning permission: you may need planning permission to run a business from home, and the contact details for any advice are as follows:- 01382 433105 (Duty Planning Officer) or planning@dundeecity.gov.uk.