For the collection of independent hotels, pubs and restaurants operating across the country, there are many challenges, none-more-so than achieving compliance with food health and safety law. Here, John Lee, managing director of Courier Express, offers some essential advice on navigating food safety standards.

Food preparation businesses within the hospitality sector – including hotels, restaurants, cafes and gastro pubs – are required by law to show that food handling and preparation processes are safe and keep to strict guidelines during all times. Not only can good food hygiene ensure that food prepared for customers is safe to eat, but it can also ensure businesses comply with the law, and ultimately protect their reputation. For independent traders facing stiff competition from larger corporate brands, this is particularly important.

The results of poor food hygiene and failure to comply with the law are clear. An astounding 75% of customers said they would not risk dining at a restaurant that has been implicated in a food hygiene incident, even if it was recommended by somebody they trust, according to research by Checkit. Whilst 61% of consumers have admitted they would boycott establishments with low food hygiene ratings.

Faced with such business impacts and the subsequent loss of revenue, hotel, restaurant and pub owners have now placed a greater emphasis on food and health safety matters. Nonetheless, many of these companies lack the support of a corporate head office, who can instruct on environmental health and food safety matters, meaning navigating the overabundance of food safety legislation can seem daunting.

Improper food handling temperatures

There are many critical factors to address when tackling food safety in the hospitality sector, but no matter what type of food produce is being handled, a selection of imperative practices must be adhered to if safety issues are to be avoided. The first of these is improper temperature control.

Chilling food at the correct temperature helps prevent the growth of bacteria – and ultimately eliminates any risk of food poising for customers. It is vital that fresh produce is kept at controlled-temperatures at all times during storage, meaning hotel, restaurant and pub cold stores must be maintained and monitored at all times. However, if products are delivered at the incorrect temperature, no matter what is done upon arrival, that food will be unsafe to prepare and consume. With this in mind, hospitality businesses must also pay careful attention to food safety within their supply chain.

On a daily basis, millions of pallets of food products are delivered to hospitality establishments in the UK. For independent retailers, transporting produce from farm to fork requires a highly-coordinated and structured temperature-controlled supply chain.

Although distribution may be the less talked about link in the food safety chain, for hotels, restaurants and pubs who procure bulk inventories of food items it must be carefully scrutinised to ensure both compliance and safety for all customers.

Driven by consumer demand, we now have greater access to a wider variety of foods than ever before. For hoteliers, publicans and restaurateurs this presents a world of opportunities, but with food produced out of season and transported across continents for customer convenience, it can also cause a whole range of issues for businesses unfamiliar with food safety best practices.

A whole array of legislation and regulation must be followed by refrigerated couriers and businesses alike, to ensure food is handled correctly and remains safe to consume upon arrival. Perhaps the most important food hygiene regulations for hospitality businesses are Regulation (EC) No/ 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs and The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006.

Both of these regulations set out the basic hygiene requirements for all aspects of your business, from your premises and facilities management to the personal hygiene of your staff and beyond.

One of the key requirements covered within the law is temperature control. Under key legislation, food must not be kept at temperatures that might cause a risk to health. For example, cold food must be maintained at 8oC or below during transportation and hot food must be retained at 63oC or above under UK law. An unbroken ‘cold chain’ is just as imperative, as any break in the temperature-controlled supply chain can compromise the integrity of the produce and lead to degradation.

It goes without saying, that the influence of technology on cold chain logistics for the hospitality sector has been great. By incorporating temperature monitoring equipment within vehicles and tracking devices, which can be wirelessly monitored, the leading refrigerated couriers are now able to safeguard the quality of cuisine and also ensure compliance with UK law. For independent hotels, pubs and restaurants the value of employing a reliable courier with a modern fleet of refrigerated vehicles, therefore, should not be underestimated.

Complete compliance

Food safety remains high on the agenda in the UK. With an abundance of new legislation and guidance set to enforce better food handling practice within the hospitality sector, hoteliers, publicans and restaurateurs now have a greater responsibility to maintain high standards.

It’s fair to say that financial constraints and lack of corporate support can be a huge barrier for independent hospitality businesses looking to embrace food safety matters. The detailed legal requirements can vary slightly between countries, and even within the UK, but for business owners the general principles of food hygiene are the same. By gaining a greater understanding of their legislative requirements and following basic practices such as suitable temperature control, independent companies can ensure they remain safe and compliant at all times.

With hygiene playing such an integral part of any catering setup Rag Hulait, UK Director of Sales at Monika comments:

“When it comes to general cleanliness and in particular food hygiene, regulation states that caterers should undertake comprehensive temperature monitoring at least once a day but ideally twice a day for stored and cooked food – once at opening and once at closing is normal, it should be a key part of training and education for all members of staff. Making sure employees are aware of the legislation and regulation that governs this area, employers should pay particular attention to the delivery of comprehensive and regular training in the process and procedures around ongoing monitoring for hygiene purposes. “

“regular and accurate monitoring of cleaning and hygiene duties and clear protocols throughout the operation is essential. By precisely recording data and maintaining correct records, caterers can demonstrate compliance and integrity at every stage. Detailed HACCP reporting and full accountability can be quickly and efficiently downloaded when needed, covering a business from a legal perspective.”