Food Safety Compliance: The Critical Regulations You Need to Know

As a food business, there are food safety laws you must comply with. These require you to: 

  • Place safe food on the market 
  • Have systems in place to ensure traceability of food
  • Ensure the consumer is provided with adequate information about the food being consumed

Adhering to food safety laws, helps you maintain high standards. It also protects your business against incidents that can impact you financially and socially, resulting in penalties (fines or imprisonment), loss of reputation—or in the worst cases—customer illness and fatality.

Laws and regulations change or are updated, and new laws are introduced continually to keep businesses and consumers safe. This can make understanding what applies to you a bit of a minefield.  

To help you meet legal compliance, here are the legislative requirements that matter in England and Wales.

Note: Although in some cases very similar to English legislation, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own variation of the legislation.

Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 general principles of food law and procedures in matters of food safety

This regulation provides definitions of what is meant by the term “Food Business” and “Food Business Operator.

The regulation is broken down into sections and articles. Section 4 covers the general requirements of food law and your responsibilities as a food business. 

Here are some key points from within Section 4 you need to be aware of:

Article 14: Food is prohibited from being placed on the market if it is unsafe. For example, ready meals that have not been fully cooked but label instructions read that the meal only requires reheating before eating.

Article 16: Food labelling, advertising and presentation must not mislead consumers

Article 18: Operators of food businesses must establish traceability systems for food, animal feed, food-producing animals and any other substances to be used in food or feed

Article 19: If a food business operator has reason to believe that food is unsafe, it must immediately withdraw the food from the market. Where the food has reached the consumer, the business operator must inform the consumer of the reason for the withdrawal.

Read Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 in full here

Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs

This regulation details general hygiene rules for food businesses.

It’s broken down into sections and articles. Here are some of the key inclusions you need to be aware of: 

Article 1: Food safety rests with the food business operator. Cold chain must be maintained in food that cannot be stored at ambient temperatures. Procedures must be implemented based on good hygiene practices and HACCP principles. Temperature controls must be based on scientific risk assessment.

Article 3 (General obligation): Food business operators must ensure all stages of production under their control satisfy relevant hygiene standards (see annex ll)

Article 5 (HACCP): Food business operators must implement food safety management systems based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles

Article 6: Food business operators must register with competent authorities

Annex ll: This section of the regulation details hygiene requirements, including:

  • Temperature control
  • Pest control
  • Number of wash basins 
  • Drainage
  • Design and maintenance of equipment
  • Waste
  • Water supply 
  • Personnel hygiene 
  • Training of food handlers

These requirements are relevant to food production, processing and distribution. This includes food premises and rooms where food is prepared, treated and processed. 

Read Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 in full here.

The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013

These regulations detail the legal powers of an authorised officer operating for an enforcement authority. They cover the issuing of:

  • Hygiene improvement notice
  • Hygiene prohibition notice
  • Hygiene emergency prohibition notice and orders
  • Remedial action and detention notice

It’s critical to follow this legislation as it details strict standards relating to:

  • The control and management of steps essential to food safety
  • Temperature control in food preparation, storage and serving
  • The cleanliness of premises and equipment
  • Waste disposal
  • Food handling hygiene practices
  • Food handler personal hygiene

Read The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 in full here

Food Information Regulations 2014 (No. 1855)

These regulations detail how food businesses must legally give information to their customers about the food they produce, sell and serve. It covers:

  • Additives
  • Allergies and intolerances
  • Labelling, composition and date marking of food
  • Nutritional information
  • Country of origin

Read Food Information Regulations 2014 in full here.

Food Safety Act 1990

The Food Safety Act provides the framework for all food legislation in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

The main responsibilities of all food businesses covered by the Act are to ensure that:

  • Businesses do not include anything in food, remove anything from food or treat food in any way that means it would be damaging to the health of people eating it
  • The food businesses serve or sell is of the nature, substance or quality that consumers would expect
  • Food is labelled, advertised and presented in a way that is not false or misleading

The majority of BRCGS and GFSI and customer requirements can be cross-referenced back to food safety legislation requirements.

Read the Food Safety Act 1990 in full here.

How to maintain food safety compliance

The best way to meet your legal obligations is to ensure all staff are trained and competent in food safety legislation. 

If every employee at every level knows how to perform their duties in accordance with industry regulations, you’re less likely to run into trouble. 

Make the regulations we’ve covered in this post easily accessible. And enrol your teams in the required courses. tolearn offers core food safety courses on the following critical topics: 

  • Allergen control and management
  • Basic food safety
  • Labelling
  • Microbiology for non-microbiologists 
  • Pest control
  • Understanding food safety culture

These courses can be accessed in one place, with students able to learn in their own time, from any location. 

More importantly, you can track training from a single dashboard to ensure employees have completed courses and are certified to do their job competently. 

Want to see how tolearn can help you meet legal compliance? Use our interactive calendar to book a one-to-one demo

To maintain high standards, you should also carry out regular audits of documentation, practices and procedures across food delivery, storage, preparation, cooking, cooling and serving. 

Audits should be done internally, as well as periodically by an accredited independent company. This guarantees results are unbiased.   

To learn more about auditing and get advice on the steps you need to take, chat with a totrain food safety audit expert here.