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Food Hygiene Certificate Guide

Last updated on 21st April 2023

What is a food hygiene certificate?

A food hygiene certificate is a certificate awarded to those who successfully complete an accredited course on food hygiene and safety. Food businesses are legally required to ensure all food handlers receive an appropriate level of training and supervision in food hygiene and safety. Although a certificate is not required by law, for the majority of food businesses it is the preferred way of proving food handlers have had the correct training.

Any commercial food businesses and restaurants that prepare, cook or sell food should be aware of food hygiene standards and are likely to receive an inspection from an Environmental Health Officer (EHO).

The EHO will assess the safety and hygiene of the food business and inspect the premises of establishments such as:

  • Restaurants, cafes and bars.
  • Catering companies.
  • Food vans.
  • Shops and supermarkets.
  • Care homes.
  • Educational settings.
  • Hotels.
  • Churches, community centres and leisure facilities.

Ensuring that all relevant staff have a food hygiene certificate not only clearly demonstrates to the EHO that staff have been correctly trained in food hygiene and safety, but also ensures the business is following all the laws and guidelines regarding food hygiene and safety and ensures the quality of all food products and the safety of customers.

Food hygiene refers to the conditions and processes that guarantee that foods are safe to eat and have not become contaminated during any stage of the food process. Contamination can include food that has been spoiled or made unsafe by bacteria or foodborne disease.

Contamination can cause serious illnesses, such as food poisoning. Food hygiene must be ensured during storage, handling, preparation, cooking and serving.

As part of your learning when undertaking a course for a food hygiene certificate, one of the things you will learn about is the Food Safety Act 1990. This covers the four key areas of hygiene, known as the 4Cs.

1. Cleaning.

2. Cooking.

3. Chilling.

4. Cross-Contamination.

A restaurant needs a food hygiene certificate

What is food hygiene?

Food hygiene refers to food safety in processes including food handling, storage, preparation, transport and cooking. It is a set of practices that aim to minimise food hazards and protect consumers through safe and clean food processes. Hazards should be controlled to an acceptable level and should be constantly monitored, and any actions should be consistently implemented.

Food hygiene is essential to food safety. Effective food hygiene practices should:

  • Prevent food spoilage as a result of contamination from an unclean environment or poor hygiene practices.
  • Prevent foodborne illnesses or food poisoning.
  • Ensure the safe handling of all food.
  • Ensure the cleanliness of the food environment.
  • Extend the shelf-life of food products.

Food hygiene focuses on several different components. All of these components are important in ensuring appropriate and effective hygiene practices.

The key components of food hygiene include:

  • Personal hygiene
    Maintaining a high level of personal hygiene is paramount in the food industry. This includes wearing clothing that is suitable and protective, keeping hair tied back or wearing a head covering, not wearing jewellery, and wearing gloves and other protective clothing when near food. Food handlers should also ensure they do not eat or chew gum near food and avoid smoking or touching their face or hair. Blue coloured plasters should also be worn if a food handler has any open wound, cut or scratch.
  • Handwashing
    Washing your hands effectively can help prevent cross-contamination and the spread of harmful bacteria. Hands should be washed before preparing food, after touching raw food, after handling food waste or touching bins, after cleaning, after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, and after touching light switches, door handles, mobile phones, cash registers and other surfaces.
  • Preventing cross-contamination
    Contamination includes bacterial contamination (also known as microbial or biological contamination), physical contamination (from a foreign object), chemical contamination (including natural and artificial chemicals) and allergenic contamination. Some ways to avoid cross-contamination include using different equipment and utensils for raw and cooked food, washing utensils, equipment and surfaces thoroughly, following handwashing procedures, storing foods correctly, safely preparing food, and not spraying cleaning products close to food.
  • Cleaning procedures
    This includes how you clean food preparation areas, equipment, kitchenware, appliances, the working area, surfaces and floors. Look at how thoroughly cleaning is being done, your schedule for cleaning, the procedures you follow, the management of cleaning materials and chemicals and whether you use colour coded cleaning equipment.
  • Allergen control
    All food businesses should be aware of the 14 allergens and label their food accordingly. They should also prevent allergens from cross-contaminating other food.
  • Temperatures
    This includes cooking temperatures and the temperatures of refrigerated and frozen food. Food must be cooked thoroughly to a temperature of at least 75°C for a minimum of two minutes. Consider using a temperature probe to check cooking temperatures. Refrigerated food must be kept below at least 8°C, although below 5°C is more commonly recommended. Frozen food should be stored at a temperature of -18°C or lower. Food businesses should also be aware of cooling temperatures and should monitor all food when it is cooling. Maintaining the correct temperatures can help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • Safe storage of foods
    Following the First-In/First-Out (FIFO) rule is a great way of reducing spoilage in your food business. Every time you receive a food delivery, put the new stock behind the old stock. This ensures you use the stock closer to its expiration date first. You should also consider where you store food, the storage containers you use, your labelling procedures and the temperature of storage areas. You should also consider whether stored food is at risk of physical contamination, for example from dirt or dust.
A chef cleaning a kitchen

What food hygiene certificate do I need?

Deciding what food hygiene certificate you need can depend on several factors, including your role, the type of food you work with, and your environment. Although there are multiple types of food hygiene and safety courses available, there are four main certificates you should be aware of.

Level 1 Food Hygiene Certificate

This is also known as the basic food hygiene certificate. It teaches the basic principles of food hygiene and food hazards. Topics will include temperature control, personal hygiene, cross-contamination, food poisoning, waste disposal, cleanliness in preparation areas, food storage and other food safety issues. The Level 1 certificate is recommended for those who do not directly prepare, cook or handle food.

Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate

This certificate is designed for those who handle, prepare or serve food at any part of the food process including catering, manufacturing, cooking and the selling of food. It covers all of the topics taught as part of the basic food hygiene certificate in more detail. It also covers how to control food safety hazards, cleaning procedures, how to protect food from contamination, the principles of HACCP, and all legal responsibilities related to food hygiene.

Level 3 Food Hygiene Certificate

This is the most advanced certification and is recommended for supervisors, managers and business owners who handle food as part of their role or who are responsible for food safety management. As well as the topics taught in Levels 1 and 2, the Level 3 course teaches you how to take responsibility for food safety and monitoring procedures and how to achieve a 5-star hygiene rating. It will also cover how to comply with laws and regulations and how to train or supervise others in regard to food hygiene and safety.

HACCP Level 2 or 3

As well as the Levels 1, 2 and 3 food hygiene certificates, many food businesses also choose to undertake HACCP training. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) training is a preventative approach to food safety that examines different hazards and how they can be controlled and managed. A HACCP course will teach you about good hygiene practices, the importance of a food safety management system and how this system can be maintained.

Supermarkets need food hygiene certificates

How to get a food hygiene certificate

Now you have more of an understanding of food hygiene, you may be wondering how to get a food hygiene certificate. No matter the type of food hygiene certificate you need, it couldn’t be easier to become certified.

Here at CPD Online College, we offer all of the food hygiene certificate options with an immediate start. This means that you can begin the course as soon as you sign up for it.

Once you have completed all aspects of the course and successfully passed the quiz, your food hygiene certificate will be immediately available for download. You will also be sent a hard copy of your certificate in the post which can be displayed at your place of work.

Visit our website for a full list of food hygiene courses.

Do I need a food hygiene certificate?

EC Regulation 852 requires that every person who works in food handling must be trained in food hygiene that is relevant and correspondent to their role. This training is a legal requirement across the food industry in the UK. It is the responsibility of the employer, not the employees, to ensure training is undertaken and is relevant to the employees’ roles.

Although food hygiene certificates are not required by law, marks will be lost during a food hygiene inspection if a food business cannot provide evidence of staff training.

Even if training has been completed, without certification this can be difficult to prove and may cause the Environmental Health Officer to ask more questions or try to determine food hygiene knowledge and training in other ways.

The easiest way you can provide evidence of training to the EHO is by ensuring all employees have obtained a food hygiene certificate. If the EHO is not satisfied that training has been completed effectively, this could cause you to score lower on the food hygiene rating scheme. After your inspection, the EHO will award you a score from 0-5.

0 = More than 50 points were scored, and urgent improvements are needed.

1 = Between 45 and 50 points were scored. Major improvements are needed.

2 = Between 35 and 40 points were scored. Improvements are needed.

3 = Between 25 and 30 points were scored. The business or establishment was found to be generally satisfactory.

4 = 20 points were scored. The business or establishment is rated as good.

5 = Between 0 and 15 points were scored. The business or establishment is rated as very good or excellent.

Failure to ensure that staff are correctly trained in food hygiene could result in more points being scored during the inspection.

Bakers are likely to need a food hygiene certificate

Do all staff need a food hygiene certificate?

Any staff members who handle food, known as food handlers, should be trained in food hygiene. This includes those involved in the preparation, storage, service, cooking, manufacturing or packing of food or those who have any direct contact with food. It can also include those who handle food utensils or assist another person with the above tasks.

Individuals who are likely to need a food hygiene certificate include:

  • Chefs and bakers.
  • Catering managers.
  • Catering assistants.
  • Kitchen porters.
  • Takeaway and fast food outlets staff.
  • Food servers.
  • Butchers and fishmongers.
  • Dishwashing staff and cleaners.
  • Lunchtime assistants.
  • Care home and hospital staff.

Staff who only handle low-risk food, only handle food that is packaged, or who do not directly prepare or handle the food may not require a food hygiene certificate or may only require a basic food hygiene certificate. This includes front of house employees, bar staff, retail workers and warehouse staff.

How long is a food hygiene certificate valid for?

The validity of your food hygiene certificate will depend on the company with which you completed the course. Your certificate may be valid for two, three or four years or may not have any expiration date.

Regardless of how long your certificate is valid for, it is recommended that training is refreshed at least once every three years. Not only does this ensure that employees’ knowledge, skills and training are refreshed and still relevant, but it also ensures that they are aware of any changes or updates to legislation or regulations.

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About the author

Nicole Murphy

Nicole Murphy

Nicole graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in Psychology in 2013. She works as a writer and editor and tries to combine all her passions - writing, education, and psychology. Outside of work, Nicole loves to travel, go to the beach, and drink a lot of coffee! She is currently training to climb Machu Picchu in Peru.

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