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Food Safety Guide for Coffee Shops

Meeting food hygiene regulations, food hygiene legislation, staff training and food hazards

Food Safety Guides » Food Safety Guide for Coffee Shops

Meeting Food Hygiene Regulation in Coffee Shops

According to the British Coffee Association, 80% of people who visit coffee shops do so at least once a week, whilst 16% visit daily. This is a lot of customers, and what they all have in common is the expectation that the food and drink they are purchasing is good quality and safe. If a coffee shop business fails to comply with good food hygiene and safety practices, it increases the risk of contamination and can make food (and drink) unsafe. Contaminated food can make customers ill, cause injuries and may even be life-threatening in some cases.

Poor hygiene and unsafe practices, such as not cooking or chilling high-risk food sufficiently and cross-contamination, can cause food poisoning. Allergen products coming into contact with non-allergen ones can result in severe allergic reactions in some people. Physical contaminants can injure people’s mouths and may even result in choking. Unsafe food is an even greater risk for those who are vulnerable, such as young children, the elderly, allergy sufferers and people with weakened immune systems.

Coffee shops predominately serve coffee but will also offer a variety of other hot and cold drinks. They may also make, prepare and sell breakfasts, sandwiches, salads, cakes and other snacks on the premises. Some coffee shops may be part of a larger chain, whilst others may be smaller independent businesses. There may even be a coffee shop within another establishment, such as garden centres and other attractions. One of the things that all types of coffee shops have in common is the need to uphold food hygiene and safety. How each coffee shop achieves this will depend on the type of business.

The overall aim of any business is to be profitable. All coffee shop businesses will be inspected by Local Authority Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) as part of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS). If a coffee shop business has poor food safety and hygiene standards, its food hygiene rating score is likely to be lower. According to an NFU Mutual Food Hygiene Report, 69% of people check the food hygiene ratings of the establishments they use, and customers would turn away from a 3-star rated business, but not one that was 5-star rated. A poor hygiene rating can mean a loss of customers and, therefore, a reduction in takings.

This guide will provide coffee shop businesses with some advice on achieving good food safety and hygiene standards. It will also highlight why food safety and hygiene is essential when running a coffee shop business.

Food hygiene legislation for coffee shops

As food operators, all coffee shop businesses will need to comply with food safety and hygiene legislation.

The main laws are:


Further information on the key regulations is on the Food Standards Agency webpage.

If coffee shop businesses are preparing, cooking, storing, handling, distributing, supplying or selling food, they will need to register with their local authority. They will also need a licence to sell alcohol and relevant insurances, e.g. public liability and employer’s liability.

There may be other applicable laws, depending on the type of coffee shop business. It is the responsibility of business owners to ensure they are aware of, and comply with, all relevant food safety laws. Ignorance of legislation is not a defence.

Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) are responsible for enforcing food safety and hygiene. They have certain powers under the Food Safety Act 1990 and various food hygiene regulations. If a coffee shop business fails to comply with the law, EHOs can give a poor food hygiene rating score or issue enforcement notices. For more serious offences and non-compliance of notices, officers may decide to prosecute, which may mean fines, imprisonment and even closure of the business. If customers are made ill by unsafe food, they may also claim compensation, which can be very costly.

Cafe prosecution case

A vegan cafe in Camden served a customer a coconut and vanilla milkshake and assured him it was safe after being informed about his nut allergy. However, it contained cashew nut ice cream. After drinking the milkshake, he suffered a severe allergic reaction, went into cardiac arrest and a coma. Fortunately, he survived. The cafe manager did not think cashews were nuts and told food safety inspectors the milkshake was nut-free. As a result of the incident, the customer was awarded a six-figure settlement and the cafe permanently closed.

Coffee Cartoon
Coffee Shop Cartoon
Coffee Cup Cartoon

Staff training on food hygiene for coffee shops

By law, all coffee shop businesses must ensure that any staff who prepare, handle or sell food are supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene matters. It does not mean that staff have to have a food hygiene certificate. However, having evidence of training is the best way to demonstrate to EHOs and customers that the business is committed to food safety. It also provides evidence for due diligence purposes in the event of an investigation or legal action.

Staff should receive training in line with their responsibilities, the area where they work and their tasks. There are different levels of food hygiene training, e.g.:

  • Level 1 – Introduction to food hygiene, typically for those handling low-risk food, e.g. wrapped foods. This course may be beneficial for waiting-on and front of house staff with limited food contact.
  • Level 2 – Basic food hygiene certificate for staff preparing, cooking and handling food. Most coffee shop staff will need at least a level 2 course, e.g. kitchen staff and baristas.
  • Level 3 – Intermediate food hygiene certificate for those with more responsibilities, e.g. coffee shop owners, supervisors, managers and those involved in food safety management systems and HACCP.


Refresher training is also a requirement. The frequency will depend on the nature of the coffee shop business, its risks, the food handled, and the competence of workers.

Coffee shop cake

Food hazards in coffee shops

Food hazards are contaminants that can enter food and potentially cause harm to consumers. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) defines a food hazard as “something that could make food unsafe or unfit to eat”.

There are four different types of food hazards: biological, chemical, physical and allergenic.


Biological hazards happen when microorganisms contaminate food. In a coffee shop, contamination may occur due to inadequate and improper storage, chilling, defrosting, cooking and reheating of food (and drinks). This provides optimal conditions for harmful pathogens to grow. It can also occur from cross-contamination, e.g. raw foods coming into contact with cooked and ready-to-eat foods, and poor personal hygiene.

Examples of biological hazards include:

  • Bacteria, e.g. Salmonella.
  • Fungi, e.g. yeasts and moulds.
  • Viruses, e.g. norovirus.


These microorganisms can cause foodborne illnesses, including food poisoning and intoxication.

It is unlikely customers will catch the COVID-19 virus from food (Food Standards Agency). However, coffee shops must follow current Government Guidance to reduce the risk to customers and staff.


Chemical hazards occur when naturally occurring or human-made substances contaminate food. In a coffee shop, chemical hazards may occur due to cross-contamination, i.e. spraying cleaning products near food or drinks.

Examples of chemical hazards include:

  • Toxins produced by animals, plants and microorganisms, e.g. mycotoxins (produced by fungi).
  • Unintentionally added chemicals, e.g. cleaning chemicals.
  • Intentionally added chemicals to food and drink but could be hazardous if used in excess quantities, e.g. flavourings, emulsifiers and stabilisers.


Eating food contaminated with chemicals can result in immediate harm to the consumer. It can also cause long-term health effects if exposed to the hazard over time.


Physical hazards are foreign materials, objects and extraneous matter that can enter food and drink during preparation and handling but may also be in raw ingredients. In a coffee shop, these may occur due to poor personal hygiene but can also come from packaging and poorly maintained equipment.

Examples of physical hazards include:

  • Natural hazards – occur naturally in the food, e.g. fruit pips and stones, bones in meat and fish and shells from nuts.
  • Unnatural hazards – should not be present in food, e.g. stones, human hair, fingernails (including false fingernails), plastic, glass, metal and wood.


These types of hazards can cause injuries to the mouth, teeth and gums. In some cases, physical contaminants can even result in choking, especially in the very young and elderly. Some can be generally unpleasant to find in food, i.e. a hair or a plaster.


Allergens are proteins that occur naturally in some foods but can contaminate other foods by cross-contact. In a coffee shop, allergenic hazards may result from using, processing and storing allergen products where non-allergen products are.

There are 14 recognised allergens, which include:

  • Eggs.
  • Fish.
  • Milk
  • Peanuts (groundnuts).
  • Celery (all of the plant, including the root celeriac).
  • Mustard (liquid, powder and seeds).
  • Tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts etc.).
  • Sesame (seeds).
  • Lupin (flower and seeds).
  • Soybeans.
  • Cereals (gluten) (oats, rye and barley).
  • Molluscs (oysters, snails and mussels).
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites.
  • Crustaceans (crab, prawns and lobster).


These types of hazards can cause allergic reactions in food allergy sufferers. In some cases, there is a risk of anaphylaxis in those with severe allergies.

There is potential for all types of food hazards to be present in a coffee shop. However, allergenic and biological are likely to be more of a risk in this type of establishment.

The 4Cs

Coffee shop businesses should follow the 4Cs of food hygiene to prevent food hazards. These are cleaning, cooking, cross-contamination and chilling. These four simple rules cover essential food hygiene and safety practices.


According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), a lack of thorough cleaning is one of the most common reasons for prosecution. Cleaning is essential as it stops harmful pathogens and allergens from spreading, discourages pests, and is a legal requirement.

Coffee shop businesses should have effective cleaning procedures and schedules to ensure that food storage, preparation, serving and eating areas are kept clean and safe. Adopting a ‘clean as you go’ approach will help keep areas constantly clean and tidy.


Some coffee shops may cook food on the premises. If this is the case, it must be cooked thoroughly before serving to customers. If food is undercooked, it can cause food poisoning. Cooking at the correct temperature for the appropriate time will kill any harmful bacteria.

The cooking method, time and temperature will depend on the type of food. However, coffee shop businesses should always follow the cooking instructions on food packaging (where present), and food must always be piping hot before being served. When cooking, food should reach at least 70°C and stay at that temperature for 2 minutes. It is advisable to test the temperature with a probe.

The majority of coffee shops are likely to reheat foods, such as toasties. Reheated food should be at least 75°C for 30 seconds. In Scotland, the regulations require food to be at least 82°C. Reheat food only once.


Foodborne illnesses usually occur when harmful bacteria are transferred between people, food, surfaces and equipment. This is known as cross-contamination, and it is one of the most common causes of food poisoning (FSA). It can also occur with chemicals, e.g. spraying chemicals in the air that can land on food, surfaces and equipment. Where allergens are concerned, it is known as cross-contact, which is where products containing allergens are often unintentionally transferred to allergen-free ones.

Coffee shop businesses must ensure they prevent cross-contamination and cross-contact as much as possible, which can be achieved by:

  • Good personal hygiene.
  • Using separate areas, equipment and utensils.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment, cleaning materials and utensils.
  • Storing food correctly, e.g. raw meat below ready-to-eat food.
  • Storing allergenic foods and non-allergenic foods separately.
  • Adopting a high standard of cleanliness.


Coffee machines can carry a higher risk of cross-contamination and cross-contact due to the different coffee and milk that are processed. For example, a steamer can have milk residues and contaminate dairy-free milk, and nut milk can introduce risks for allergy sufferers. Then there is the risk of bacterial contamination from an unclean machine and accessories. Extra precautions will be needed to avoid the risk, e.g. colour-coded jugs for different milk, dedicated cleaning utensils and cloths, and thorough cleaning of the machine and steamers.


Certain foods, e.g. those with use-by dates and ready-to-eat foods, must be stored chilled to be safe. Chilling does not kill harmful bacteria, but it does stop them from growing. If food is improperly chilled, it can enter the danger zone and encourage pathogens to grow, increasing the risk of food poisoning.

All coffee shop businesses must ensure that food is properly chilled and stored correctly, for example:

  • Refrigerator temperatures are at 5°C or below, and freezer temperatures are at least -18°C or below.
  • Food is stored correctly within the refrigerator, e.g. raw meat and poultry at the bottom.
  • Defrost food in the fridge overnight and in accordance with the instructions on the packaging.
  • Always follow the storage instructions on food packaging and monitor use-by dates.

Personal hygiene in coffee shops

Personal hygiene is vital when working with food and drink. It includes many different aspects of a person’s body, clothing and habits, such as handwashing, protective clothing, hair, jewellery, smoking, illnesses etc.

If coffee shop staff do not follow good personal hygiene practices, they can contaminate food with hazards through direct contact and cross-contamination.

Coffee shop businesses should instruct and train workers on the expected standards of personal hygiene when working with food and drink.

It can include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Washing hands thoroughly before handling and preparing food/drinks.
  • Tying hair back and/or covering it with a hat or hairnet.
  • Short fingernails, no false fingernails and no nail varnish.
  • No jewellery or watches, except a plain wedding band.
  • No strong perfumes or other toiletries, which could taint food.
  • Wearing suitable clean protective clothing, such as hairnets, gloves and aprons.
  • No coughing or sneezing over food and preparation/serving areas.
  • Discouraging behaviours, e.g. touching the face/hair, spitting, chewing gum and picking teeth/nose.


Under Regulation 852/2004, food handlers must maintain high standards of personal hygiene and cleanliness.

Staff illnesses

If coffee shop workers are ill, it can compromise food safety. Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that staff do not handle food if they have an infection. It also applies if they show any symptoms of food poisoning, e.g. vomiting and diarrhoea, and have any infected wounds, skin infections or sores. Any cuts and sores should be covered with brightly coloured waterproof plasters or dressings, even if they are not infected.

Coffee shop businesses should have reporting procedures in place if food handlers have gastrointestinal symptoms, Hepatitis A, and wounds, sores and skin conditions. If a worker has diarrhoea and/or vomiting, they should report it to their manager immediately. If they are at home, they should stay there or go home straight away if they are at work. They must not return to work until 48 hours after their symptoms have stopped.

Coffee shop worker at till

Food allergens in coffee shops

Legally, coffee shop businesses must inform customers in writing if any of the 14 allergens are in the ingredients of the food (and drink) prepared and served. It will apply to pre-packed, pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) and non-pre-packed (loose) food.


These are foods that are already in packaging before being sold. They are in packaging that has to be opened to be altered and are ready for sale. Coffee shops will likely buy and sell pre-packed food, such as bottled and canned drinks, biscuits, chocolate and cakes.

There has to be an ingredient list, with all of the allergens emphasised, on the packaging. Coffee shop businesses should check the labels before serving pre-packed foods to customers.

Pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS)

PPDS foods are those that have been prepared and packed on the same premises where sold. For example, if a coffee shop business makes salads and sandwiches and puts them in packaging, this will apply.

The regulations have recently changed regarding PPDS food. Natasha’s Law came into force on 1st October 2021. Businesses must now ensure they label PPDS foods with a full ingredient list, with all of the allergens emphasised, on the packaging.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has further information on the allergen labelling changes for PPDS foods.

Non-pre-packed (loose)

In a coffee shop, non-pre-packed foods will include meals served to customers, e.g. breakfasts, and any loose foods selected from display units, e.g. cakes.

Coffee shop businesses must provide allergen information for all loose foods containing any of the 14 allergens. They can do this by adding complete allergen information to menus or putting it on a chalkboard. They can also provide written information packs or a notice informing customers on how to obtain allergen information.


When preparing food, coffee shop businesses must ensure that food allergens are handled and managed effectively to prevent cross-contact, which can be achieved by:

  • Including allergenic hazards in HACCP systems and putting controls in place.
  • Providing allergen training for staff, including what to do in an emergency if a customer has an allergic reaction.
  • Looking for hidden allergenic ingredients, e.g. Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies (fish).
  • Preparing and storing allergen-containing products separately from non-allergen products, e.g. separate colour-coded boards.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment thoroughly where separation is not possible, i.e. coffee machines.
  • Carefully checking pre-packed food labels for allergenic ingredients.
  • Labelling any ingredient containers clearly with the allergens they contain.
  • Recording allergen information accurately, including product specification sheets, ingredients labels and recipes of the dishes.


Unlike bacteria, allergens are not affected by cooking. Coffee shops will also need to consider various dietary requirements and food intolerances. Avoid cross-contact as much as possible when preparing and handling food and drinks.

Coffee shop cake counter

Safely storing food in coffee shops

Coffee shops will store a variety of foods on the premises, such as:

  • Ambient, e.g. dried goods, such as bread, coffee, tea, sugar and coffee syrups.
  • Chilled, e.g. refrigerated foods, such as sandwiches, salads, desserts and milk.
  • Frozen, e.g. foods kept in the freezer, such as pastries, ice cream and ice.


All food must be stored correctly to prevent contamination from food hazards and keep it fresh, so good quality safe food and drink is served to customers.

Here are some top tips:

  • Check all food deliveries before putting them into storage and reject anything that could compromise food safety and quality.
  • Keep storage areas clean and tidy.
  • Have an effective stock rotation system, e.g. First In First Out (FIFO).
  • Regularly check the temperatures of fridges and freezers.
  • For pre-packed foods, always follow the storage instructions on the packaging.
  • Where possible, store raw and ready-to-eat foods separately. If it is not possible, keep higher risk foods, e.g. raw meat and poultry, below ready-to-eat and cooked foods.
  • Allergen-containing foods must be kept separate from other foods.
  • Store chemicals and cleaning equipment away from food storage areas.
  • Keep an eye on use-by dates and best before dates, and dispose of any food that has expired. Using food beyond its use-by date is unlawful.
  • Label any non-pre-packed foods with the name and any allergens.
  • Label any chilled and frozen food with dates put into storage.

Hot holding

Some coffee shops may hot hold food, e.g. in heated display units, which provides a perfect opportunity for harmful bacteria to grow if it is not at the correct temperature. When hot holding food, it must be at a temperature of 63°C or above. Businesses can keep food below this temperature for up to two hours. However, if not used after this time, it should be disposed of properly. It is always best to throw out any leftovers to minimise the risk of food poisoning.

Chilled display

A lot of coffee shops will have chilled display units for food and cold drinks. These must be cold before use, i.e. set at 5°C or below, and the temperature should be checked at least once a day (using a clean probe between chilled food packs). Display all chilled food for the shortest possible time.

Coffee and sandwich being served safely

Safely serving food in coffee shops

Food contamination can also occur during food and drink preparation and service in a coffee shop. All areas and equipment should be kept in good repair and clean. All staff handling and serving food must maintain a high standard of personal hygiene at all times.

When serving food:

  • Take extra care when handling and serving ready-to-eat foods, as bacteria and allergens will not be killed by cooking or reheating.
  • Use utensils to serve wherever possible to avoid direct touching of food.
  • Follow hot holding guidance where food has to be kept hot before serving, and the same for chilled.


The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has further guidance for businesses that deliver food and drinks to customers.

Waste disposal bin

Waste management in restaurants

Coffee shops are likely to produce mostly food, packaging and paper cup waste. If waste management is inadequate, it can encourage pests and may even result in infestations. It can also increase the risk of pathogens in the food premises. Rotten food can start to smell as it deteriorates, which customers will find unpleasant.

All coffee shop businesses should have appropriate provisions for the segregation, storage and removal of waste, for example:

  • Not allowing waste to accumulate by removing it regularly from food areas.
  • Having appropriate bins inside and outside the food premises, e.g.:
    – Sufficient in number.
    – Different types for different wastes.
    – With foot pedals, so no hand touching.
    – With tight-fitting lids to prevent pests.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting bins regularly.
  • Lining bins with appropriate liners.
  • Regularly emptying bins inside and outside.
  • Ensuring bins are placed and kept in areas designated for waste disposal.
  • Keeping outside bins locked when not in use.
Pigeon pest near coffee shop

Pest control in coffee shops

A pest is any insect or animal which can contaminate food with harmful pathogens and become an infestation if uncontrolled. They can also introduce physical hazards, e.g. contaminating food with droppings, fur and feathers, and the whole (or part) of the pest can also end up in food.

Pests in food businesses are relatively common, and EHOs close down food businesses due to pest infestations more than any other problem.

Many different types of pests can contaminate food. The ones that may be in and around coffee shops may include:

  • Rodents – mice and rats.
  • Insects – flies, ants and cockroaches.
  • Stored product insects – beetles, particularly weevils, can be found in flours, grains and cereals.
  • Birds – pigeons (outside).


Some examples of pest prevention and control methods include:

  • Checking the premises regularly for gaps or holes that could allow pests into buildings.
  • Ensuring external areas around the premises are kept clear of vegetation and anything that could encourage or harbour pests.
  • Looking for evidence of pests or pest damage when checking deliveries, e.g. insects or gnawed packaging. Do not accept deliveries if there are any signs.
  • Keeping the premises clean and tidy, particularly where food is prepared, served and eaten.
  • Removing internal and external waste regularly.
  • Using fly screens on any open windows.
  • Not having open bins and keeping lids closed when not in use.
  • Storing food correctly, e.g. not on the floor, and keeping it covered or well-sealed.
  • Having an approved contractor to manage and monitor pest control within and around the premises where possible.


The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has a food safety management pack called Safer Food, Better Business for caterers. This pack can help coffee shop businesses meet the requirements of food safety and hygiene legislation. We also offer various food hygiene and HACCP courses, which can help coffee shop businesses understand their legal obligations and assist them in achieving a five-star food hygiene rating.

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