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Meeting Food Hygiene Regulation for Hog Roasts
A hog roast is an old tradition where a whole pig is roasted outside slowly on a spit, in a large oven or on a hog roast machine. It is a regular sight at outdoor events, such as festivals, markets and shows. They are also often available for hire at corporate events, celebrations and private parties. Hog roasts are becoming increasingly popular, and there is significant earning potential to be had with this type of business.
To have a successful hog roast business, operators must ensure the food they sell is safe to eat. If they do not, it increases the risk of contamination, which can make customers ill, cause injuries, and may even be life-threatening in some cases. Unsafe food is an even greater risk for those who are vulnerable, such as young children, the elderly, pregnant women, allergy sufferers and people with weakened immune systems.
Poor hygiene and unsafe practices, such as not cooking or chilling high-risk food (such as pork) sufficiently, and cross-contamination, can cause food poisoning. Allergen products coming into contact with allergen-free ones can result in severe allergic reactions in some people. Physical contaminants can injure the mouth and may even result in choking. Preparing and cooking food outside introduces additional risks that hog roast operators need to account for in their HACCP systems.
The main dish served at a hog roast is the pig, usually accompanied by bread, stuffing and sauces. Some hog roast operators may also offer catering packages that include other foods, such as buffets, salads, burgers, sausages and other roasted meats. Some cater to specific dietary requirements, e.g. vegan and vegetarian. Regardless of the food they sell, one of the things that all hog roast operators have in common is the need to uphold food hygiene and safety. How each business achieves this will depend on its nature and risks.
The overall aim of any business is to be profitable. All hog roast operators will be inspected as part of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS). If an operator has poor food safety and hygiene standards, their 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 hog roast operators with general advice on achieving good food safety and hygiene standards. It will also highlight why food safety and hygiene is essential when running this type of business.
Food hygiene legislation for hog roasts
As food operators, all hog roast businesses will need to comply with food safety and hygiene legislation.
The main laws are:
- The Food Safety Act (FSA) 1990 – Provides a framework for food safety legislation in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). Northern Ireland has different legislation; the Food Safety (Northern Ireland) Order 1991. The FSA 1990 covers food safety, consumer protection, food information etc.
- The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 – Created under the FSA 1990. The regulations cover the enforcement of food hygiene and the HACCP principles from Regulation (EC) 852/2004 (retained EU law). There are different regulations for each UK country, e.g.:
–The Food Hygiene (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
– The Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006.
– The Food Hygiene Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006.
- The Food Information Regulations 2014 – Places duties on food businesses to provide information to consumers on allergens. These regulations were amended by the Food Information (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2019 to include Natasha’s Law, which came into force on 1st October 2021.
Further information on the key regulations is on the Food Standards Agency webpage.
Hog roast operators will need to register with their local authority. If they sell on the public highway, they will also require a street trader licence. They will also need a licence to sell alcohol (if applicable) and relevant insurances, e.g. public liability and employer’s liability.
There may be other applicable laws, depending on the type of business. It is the operator’s responsibility to ensure they know 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 FSA 1990 and various food hygiene regulations. If hog roast operators do not comply with legislation, 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.
Hog roast prosecution cases
- A wedding caterer was prosecuted and fined £250,106 after the bridegroom and over 50 guests suffered from salmonella food poisoning after eating an undercooked hog roast served at a wedding reception in Staffordshire. The married couple had to cancel their honeymoon (Lichfield District Council).
- Fourteen people suffered from salmonella food poisoning at a Devon charity event. Although not confirmed, the cause may have been the hog roast (BBC News).
Staff training on food hygiene for hog roasts
Legally, all hog roast operators must ensure that any staff who prepare, handle, cook, 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 this type 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 wrapped food. This course may be useful for operators with limited food contact, but it is unlikely to apply to hog roast businesses.
- Level 2 – Basic food hygiene certificate for staff preparing, cooking and handling food. Most hog roast staff will need a level 2 course (at least), e.g. kitchen staff, chefs and servers.
- Level 3 – Intermediate food hygiene certificate for those with more responsibilities, e.g. hog roast business 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 business, its risks, the food handled, and the competence of operators/workers.
Food hazards at hog roasts
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. At a hog roast, contamination may be caused by improper chilling and undercooking of high-risk foods, e.g. the pig and other roasted and barbecued meats. Poor practices provide optimal conditions for harmful pathogens to grow. It can also occur due to cross-contamination from poor personal hygiene and handling practices, e.g. inadequate handwashing and unclean equipment, utensils and cleaning materials.
Examples of biological hazards include:
- Bacteria, e.g. salmonella and E. coli.
- Fungi, e.g. yeasts and moulds.
- Viruses, e.g. norovirus.
- Parasitic worms, e.g. trichinella in raw and undercooked pork.
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, hog roast operators must follow current Government Guidance to reduce the risk to customers. Local authority environmental health teams can provide up-to-date guidance on COVID-19.
Chemical hazards occur when naturally occurring or human-made substances contaminate food. At a hog roast, chemical hazards may occur due to cross-contamination and processing.
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.
- Veterinary drugs used on animals, e.g. antibiotics.
- Processing chemicals, e.g. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) if cooking on wood chips or charcoal.
- Intentionally added chemicals to food but could be hazardous if used in excess quantities, e.g. flavourings.
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 during preparation, handling, cooking and serving but may also be in raw ingredients. At a hog roast, these may occur due to poor personal hygiene but can also come from packaging, poorly maintained equipment and the outdoor environment, e.g. pests.
Examples of physical hazards include:
- Natural hazards – Occur naturally in food, e.g. fruit pips, stems and stones, dirt on potatoes, bones in meat, and shells from nuts.
- Unnatural hazards – Should not be present in food, e.g. stones, human hair, fingernails (including false fingernails), string, plastic, glass, metal, animal fur, droppings 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 the elderly. Some can be generally unpleasant to find in food, i.e. a hair.
Allergens are proteins that occur naturally in some foods but can contaminate other foods by cross-contact. At a hog roast, allergenic hazards may result from using and storing allergen products where allergen-free ones are. Allergenic hazards can cause allergic reactions in food allergy sufferers. In some cases, there is a risk of anaphylaxis in those with severe allergies.
There are 14 recognised allergens, which include:
- 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).
- Cereals (gluten) (oats, rye and barley).
- Molluscs (oysters, snails and mussels).
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites.
- Crustaceans (crab, prawns and lobster).
Allergens at a hog roast are likely to come from oils, sauces, seasonings, marinades, stuffing, bread and salads. The exact allergens will depend on the type of food provided and the ingredients in each food item.
There is potential for all types of food hazards to be present at a hog roast. However, allergenic and biological are likely to be a higher risk when preparing, handling, cooking and serving the hog and other meat products.
Hog roast operators 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.
Hog roast operators should have effective cleaning procedures and schedules. They must ensure machinery, equipment, utensils, and food storage, preparation, cooking and serving areas are kept clean and safe. Adopting a ‘clean as you go’ approach will help keep areas constantly clean and tidy.
Cooking a whole pig is not easy, and there is a high risk of food poisoning if not cooked properly. This was the reason for the salmonella food poisoning wedding outbreak that cost the caterer over £250,000. It is essential that anyone cooking and serving a hog roast knows what to do. Most businesses will have a hog roast chef and server.
Whole pigs or other meats must not be cooked from frozen, as this may result in uneven cooking and some raw meat remaining. Frozen pigs should be fully defrosted in a chiller/refrigerator before cooking.
The cooking time will depend on the size of the pig, the equipment and the method used. Most of the time, cooking is started off-site, but it may be cooked on-site. Some pigs can take up to 12 hours to cook. If stuffed, it can take even longer. Stuffing should be minimal to allow for more even cooking. The butcher will usually advise on the cooking times, along with the hog roast equipment instructions. Operators may decide to cut the hog into smaller pieces to facilitate easier cooking. If cooking off-site and transporting the hog during cooking, maintain the temperature.
For other foods, the cooking method, time and temperature will depend on the type of food. Operators should always follow the cooking instructions on food packaging (where present) and food must always be piping hot all the way through before being served.
Cooking at the correct temperature for the appropriate time will help kill any harmful bacteria. Cooked food should reach at least 70°C and stay at that temperature for 2 minutes (or at an equivalent temperature and time, i.e. 80°C for 6 seconds). It is advisable to test the food temperature with a clean, calibrated probe to ensure proper cooking. When cooking a whole pig, take the temperatures at different parts, including thicker areas (shoulders and legs) and stuffing.
If reheating any food, it should be at least 75°C for 30 seconds. In Scotland, the regulations require reheated food to be at least 82°C. Only reheat food once.
Foodborne illnesses usually occur due to the transferring of harmful bacteria 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. This is where products containing allergens are often unintentionally transferred to allergen-free ones.
Hog roast operators must ensure they prevent cross-contamination and cross-contact as much as possible, which can be achieved by:
- Good personal hygiene, e.g. washing and sanitising hands thoroughly.
- Using separate areas, equipment and utensils for different types of foods, e.g. raw and cooked.
- Cleaning and disinfecting equipment, cleaning materials and utensils before use, between uses and after.
- Storing food correctly inside and outside, e.g. keeping raw foods away from cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
- Storing allergenic foods and non-allergenic foods separately, including ingredients and prepared food.
- Adopting a high standard of cleanliness at all times.
- Preventing and controlling pests when cooking outside.
Whole pigs and other foods, such as those with use-by dates, and cooked and ready-to-eat foods, must be stored chilled to be safe. Chilling (and freezing) does not kill harmful bacteria, but it does help to 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.
Hog roast operators must ensure that food is chilled, frozen and stored correctly, for example:
- Keeping whole pigs chilled before cooking, including when being transported to venues. Monitor the temperature of the transport vehicle and pig.
- Ensuring chilled and frozen food is stored at the correct temperature on receipt/delivery.
- Ensuring chilled food is kept out of the refrigerator/chiller for the shortest time possible during preparation.
- Ensuring refrigerator/chiller temperatures are at 5°C or below, and freezer temperatures are at least -18°C or below.
- Ensuring food is stored correctly within refrigerators/chillers, e.g. raw food at the bottom or in separate fridges to ready-to-eat and cooked foods.
- Defrosting whole pigs fully in a refrigerator/chiller before cooking.
- Defrosting other frozen foods in accordance with the instructions on the packaging or safely in the refrigerator overnight.
- Following the storage instructions on food packaging and monitoring use-by dates.
Personal hygiene at hog roasts
Personal hygiene is vital when working with food. It includes many different aspects of the body, clothing and habits, such as handwashing, protective clothing, hair, jewellery, smoking, illnesses etc. If hog roast operators do not follow good personal hygiene practices, they can contaminate food with hazards through direct contact and cross-contamination.
If hog roast operators have employees, they should instruct and train them on the expected standards of personal hygiene when working with food.
It can include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Keeping hair, body and hands clean.
- Washing hands regularly and thoroughly, e.g. after visiting the toilet, after handling raw meat and before handling ready-to-eat/cooked food. There should be a handwash basin (with hot and cold water and soap) sited within a reasonable distance of food preparation, cooking and serving areas.
- Tying hair back and/or covering it with a hat.
- 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, and changing it regularly.
- No coughing or sneezing over food and preparation, cooking and serving areas.
- No smoking in or around vehicles and food preparation, cooking and 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.
If staff are ill, it can compromise food safety. Hog roast operators have a legal responsibility to ensure 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.
Hog roast operators should have reporting procedures for when food handlers have gastrointestinal symptoms, Hepatitis A, and wounds, sores and skin conditions. If a worker has diarrhoea or vomiting, they should report it to the operator 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.
Food allergens at hog roasts
Legally, hog roast operators must inform customers in writing if any of the 14 allergens are in the ingredients of the food prepared, cooked 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. Hog roast operators may buy and sell pre-packed food, such as bottled and canned drinks, sauces and dressings.
There has to be an ingredients list, with all of the allergens emphasised, on the packaging. Operators should check the labels to ensure the allergens are clear before serving pre-packed foods to customers.
Pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS)
PPDS foods are prepared and packed on the same premises where sold and before they are ordered or selected by customers. This will apply if making hog roast baps and other foods and putting them in packaging ready for sale.
The regulations have recently changed regarding PPDS food. Natasha’s Law came into force on 1st October 2021. Businesses must now label PPDS foods with a full ingredients list, with all of the allergens emphasised, on the packaging.
Non-pre-packed foods will include unpackaged foods served to customers, e.g. hog roast baps, hot drinks made to order and any loose unpackaged foods selected from displays or buffets.
Hog roast operators 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, cooking and serving food, hog roast operators 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.
- Completing allergen training, including what to do in an emergency if a customer has an allergic reaction.
- Looking for any hidden allergenic ingredients in foods.
- Preparing, cooking and storing allergen-containing products separately from non-allergen products, e.g. using separate equipment, such as colour-coded boards.
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment thoroughly where separation is not possible.
- 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.
Unlike bacteria, allergens are not affected by cooking or chilling. Operators will also need to consider various dietary requirements and food intolerances. Avoid cross-contact as much as possible when preparing and handling food.
Safely storing food at hog roasts
Hog roast operators will store a variety of foods, such as:
- Ambient, e.g. dried goods, such as sauces, marinades, bread, tea and coffee. They may also store vegetables.
- Chilled, e.g. refrigerated foods, such as the hog, other meats, meat-free foods, ready-to-eat foods, salads, desserts and milk.
- Frozen, e.g. foods kept in the freezer, such as chips, vegetables, meat and meat-free foods.
Store foods correctly to prevent contamination from food hazards and keep them fresh, so good quality, safe food is served.
Here are some top tips:
- Only use reputable suppliers, particularly for whole pigs and other meats.
- Check all food deliveries before putting them into storage and reject anything that could compromise food safety and quality.
- Keep dry goods in sealed, labelled containers.
- Keep storage areas clean and tidy.
- Do not store any food, equipment or utensils on the ground.
- 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, below ready-to-eat and cooked foods.
- Allergen-containing foods must be kept separate from other foods.
- Store chemicals, cleaning equipment, and waste 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.
A hog roast will certainly involve hot holding food, especially the pig. When hot holding food, it must be at a temperature of 63°C or above. Operators can keep food below this temperature for up to two hours.
However, if not used after this time, it should be:
- Reheated until it is steaming hot and put back into hot holding (only reheat once).
- Cooled as quickly as possible to a temperature of 8°C or below.
- Disposed of if it has been out for more than two hours.
It is always best to throw out any leftovers to minimise the risk of food poisoning.
Some hog roast businesses may provide chilled food for self-serving, e.g. buffets. Before putting any food into chilled units, they must be at the correct temperature before use, i.e. set at 5°C or below. The temperature should be checked at least once a day (using a clean probe between chilled food). Display all chilled food for the shortest possible time.
When delivering chilled foods or taking them to events, it is best to use a cool box with a thermometer inside to monitor the temperature. Cold foods should be held below 8°C, but ideally between 0-5°C. It can be held above 8°C for up to four hours, but only once.
Safely serving food at hog roasts
Food contamination can also occur during food preparation and service. All cooking/serving areas and equipment should be kept in good repair and clean. Anyone handling and serving food must maintain a high standard of personal hygiene at all times.
When serving food at hog roasts:
- Take extra care when handling and serving ready-to-eat foods, as bacteria and allergens will not be killed by cooking or reheating.
- Provide and use utensils to serve wherever possible to avoid direct touching of food.
- Use gloves when serving and change them regularly.
- Follow hot holding guidance where food has to be kept hot before serving, and the same for chilled.
- Always follow the 4Cs.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has further guidance for businesses that deliver food to customers. Hog roast operators should follow this advice if preparing food off-site and then taking it to events.
Waste management at hog roasts
Hog roasts are likely to produce mostly food, packaging, disposable plates/cutlery and water waste. If waste management is inadequate, it can encourage pests and may even result in infestations. It can also increase the risk of food becoming contaminated with harmful pathogens. Food can start to smell as it deteriorates, which customers will find unpleasant.
All hog roast operators 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, e.g.:
– Sufficient in number.
– Different types of bins for different wastes.
– Bins with foot pedals, so no hand touching.
– Bins with tight-fitting lids to prevent pests.
- Cleaning and disinfecting bins regularly.
- Lining bins with appropriate liners.
- Regularly emptying bins.
- Ensuring bins are placed and kept in areas designated for waste disposal.
- Keeping outside bins closed when not in use.
- Piping wastewater into sealed containers or tanks and not discharging it on-site.
- Removing waste from events and disposing of it legally and properly.
Pest control at hog roasts
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 or the pest itself.
Pests 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 hog roasts 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.
Some examples of pest prevention and control methods include:
- Checking regularly for gaps or holes that could allow pests into the premises, vehicle or trailer. All should be pest-proof.
- Keeping windows and doors closed and locked when not in use.
- Ensuring external areas are kept clear of vegetation, rubbish and anything that could encourage or harbour pests.
- Looking for evidence of pests or pest damage when checking deliveries, e.g. larvae, insects or gnawed packaging. Do not accept deliveries if there are any signs.
- Keeping the premises, vehicle, equipment and trailer clean and tidy, especially where food is transported, prepared, cooked and served.
- 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 and contacting them if there are signs of an infestation.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has a food safety management pack called Safer Food, Better Business. It can help hog roast operators meet the requirements of food safety and hygiene legislation.
Hog roast operators should contact the local authority environmental health team for advice on food safety and hygiene specific to their business. There is also guidance from the CIEH on mobile catering that operators may find helpful.
We also offer various food hygiene and HACCP courses, which can help hog roast operators understand their legal obligations and assist them in achieving a five-star food hygiene rating.