Food hygiene in takeaways is extremely important, it seems like every week we see a news story about a takeaway that has been fined or closed due to poor hygiene. Takeaways throughout the country are being penalised for cross-contamination, unsanitary kitchen areas, lack of pest control, and failure to provide allergen information on their menus and website.
Following good food hygiene standards is a legal requirement for takeaways in the UK, backed by government legislation, and taken very seriously by our legal system. Poor food hygiene practices can result in the closure of your business, hefty fines, and irreversible damage to your business’s reputation.
The Food Standards Agency estimates that there are one million cases of food poisoning or foodborne illness in the UK every year. This results in roughly 20,000 hospital admissions and contributes to around 500 deaths.
Such is the importance of food hygiene for your takeaway when it comes to safeguarding the health of your customers. Nobody wants to feel responsible for causing illness or death through negligence. Food safety should be your priority when you are preparing food and offering a food delivery service to your customers.
In this guide, we’ll outline the legislation that your takeaway has to follow concerning food hygiene. We’ll move on to discuss the four C’s and four P’s and food safety management procedures, with a focus on the HACCP management system.
Next, we’ll provide information concerning premises, menu options, taking orders, allergen information, cooking, food safety information, and transporting takeaways. Finally, we’ll discuss personal hygiene, staff training, requirements for rooms where food is prepared, and pest control. By the time you’ve read through this guide, you’ll have gained vital insights into food hygiene
What legislation does my takeaway need to follow?
The most critical food safety legislation that your takeaway must follow is:
This Act states that a food business should not:
- Cause food to be dangerous to health.
- Sell food that is not what the customer is entitled to expect in terms of quality or content.
- Present or describe food in a way that is false or misleading.
The other laws that you should be aware of are:
- The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013.
- The Food Hygiene (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (as amended).
- The Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006.
- The Food Hygiene Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006.
These regulations make it a legal requirement for all UK food businesses to implement food safety management procedures based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) techniques.
The HACCP framework will help your takeaway to:
- Identify points in your operations where any food hazards could occur.
- Decide which of the points identified are critical.
- Identify and implement efficient monitoring and control procedures at critical control points (CCPs).
- Periodically review and analyse food hazards, CCPs, and monitoring and control procedures.
The Food Information Regulations 2014 provides details on the information that must be provided to customers and how this information must be presented. It also outlines 14 products or substances that can cause intolerances or allergies.
The four C’s and four P’s
In the UK hospitality industry, the four C’s are a critical aspect of food safety. Cleaning, cooking, chilling, and cross-contamination all relate to parts of the food handling processes and must adhere to high standards of food hygiene at all times.
For takeaway employees who are unfamiliar with these protocols, a food hygiene course covers these topics in detail. In the meantime, we’ll outline the role each ‘C’ plays in takeaway food safety and hygiene.
We will now look at each one in more detail.
A high standard of cleaning eliminates any bacteria present on hands, equipment, and surfaces. It also helps to prevent harmful bacteria from contaminating food. All takeaway staff, including delivery drivers, must wash and dry their hands thoroughly before they handle food or kitchen equipment.
Additionally, used equipment, food spillages, and kitchen utensils must be cleared away after use. If your kitchen , there will be no chance for mess to build up and your kitchen will maintain hygienic conditions at all times.
Food must be cooked thoroughly to destroy any harmful bacteria that are present in food. If takeaway food is being cooked or reheated, kitchen staff must ensure that the food is piping hot. Additionally, it must be packaged for delivery in such a way that it remains at a minimum temperature of 63°C when it reaches the customer.
This is especially crucial when cooking products made with minced red meat or poultry because there could be bacteria living in the middle of these foods. For this reason, chicken and hamburgers should never be served rare or with any pink visible in the middle when sliced open. Whole cuts of beef and lamb, such as steaks, cutlets, and joints, can be served rare, as long as they have been sealed on the outside.
Cross-contamination is one of the most prominent causes of food poisoning. The process occurs when bacteria spread between surfaces, equipment, hands, and food. Harmful bacteria such as salmonella can easily be spread via cross-contamination, so this process must be prevented at all costs.
Cross-contamination is more likely to occur when raw food is stored next to cooked food, or touched ready-to-eat food, equipment, or surfaces.
We recommend using separate equipment to prepare raw and ready-to-eat food, safely storing food, and thoroughly cleaning work surfaces and your hands to reduce the risk of cross-contamination in your takeaway.
Food must be chilled correctly to prevent the growth of bacteria. The majority of foods require a chilled storage environment to remain safe to eat and slow down their decomposition process. Foods such as fruits and salads perish very quickly if they remain at room temperature for extended periods.
By checking chilled food on delivery and refrigerating food as soon as possible, waste can be minimised, and your overall kitchen hygiene will improve.
The four C’s are well known throughout the hospitality industry, and provide a backbone for takeaways to improve their food hygiene standards.
Next, we’ll discuss the four P’s, another set of guidelines that can be used to help keep food hygiene standards high in your takeaway. The four P’s are premises, procedures, personal hygiene, and pests.
Premises means all buildings and rooms in which food is stored or prepared. Your premises must be kept clean and sanitised at all times and designed in a way that promotes hygienic practices. Dirt and mould build-up must be prevented, and there must be sufficient space for working with, storing, and handling food.
Takeaway premises should provide adequate:
- Toilets and handwashing facilities for staff.
- Ventilation in bathrooms and kitchen.
- Drainage for restrooms and kitchens.
- Staff changing facilities.
- Ample storage of cleaning chemicals, disinfectants and other chemicals.
Chemical storage should follow COSHH guidelines; find out more about COSHH here.
Adhering to the appropriate health and safety procedures is vital for all takeaway businesses. This is because accidents, food poisoning, or a failed inspection could result in hefty fines, closures, and even fatalities.
Takeaways across the UK that handle and deal with food are legally required to follow legislative health and safety guidelines. This protects employees from penalties and hazards while also reducing the risk of an unsafe situation from occurring.
We’ll provide more details about Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) later on in this guide.
It should go without saying that personal hygiene is a crucial aspect of overall food hygiene. Standards of personal hygiene in takeaways must remain high at all times. The following points can be used as a personal hygiene checklist for your staff.
- Thoroughly wash and dry your hands before handling any food. Make sure that you wash and dry them again frequently throughout your shift, especially when using the bathroom.
- Hands should be dried with a disposable paper towel, a clean towel, or beneath an air dryer.
- Never chew gum, spit, smoke, or eat in a food storage or handling area.
- Never sneeze or cough over food, or in an area where food is prepared or stored.
- Always wear protective clothing such as gloves or an apron.
- Store your spare clothes and any other personal items away from the food storage and preparation area.
- Cover or tie back long hair.
- Fingernails should be kept short as they are easier to clean. Also, nail polish should be avoided as it can chip and end up inside food.
- Jewellery must be avoided unless it is a plain-banded ring or sleeper earrings.
- Any cuts or wounds should be covered entirely with a plaster or bandage. We recommend using coloured waterproof plasters so that they can be easily identified if they slip off during service.
- If you have cuts on your hands, wear disposable gloves over your plaster.
- Change these disposable gloves regularly.
- If you feel unwell or have had sickness or diarrhoea, let your supervisor know and DO NOT handle any food.
In your takeaway, you must ensure that there are adequate measures in place to prevent pests from contaminating food both in storage and preparation areas. This includes:
- Building design and maintenance to prevent means of access to pests.
- Adequate storage of prepared food and ingredients restricting access to pests.
- Hygiene measures that eliminate access to food spills and waste that may attract pests and allow them to survive.
Food safety management procedures
Food safety management procedures exist to make it easier for restaurants, kitchens, and takeaways to maintain high standards of food hygiene.
Your takeaway must put in place a Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP) to show compliance with food safety management procedures. HACCP is an internationally recognised method of identifying and managing food safety-related risk. If your food safety programme is based around HACCP principles, you will be able to provide the public, your customers, and regulatory inspectors with proof that your takeaway’s food safety programme is well managed.
HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed via the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, handling, and procurement to manufacturing, consumption, and distribution of the finished product.
You can easily develop your own set of procedures based on HACCP principles. As an alternative, you can use a pack that has been produced by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), a food industry guide, or guidelines issued by your local authority.
You can measure the performance of your takeaway by auditing the practices, procedures, and documentation that occur during delivery, storage, prep, cooking, cooling, and serving of chilled and hot food. Your audit should examine the following areas:
- Management of food safety.
- Receipt and storage of food.
- Structural maintenance.
- Temperature control.
- Personal hygiene.
- Contamination control.
- Pest control.
- Refuse disposal.
- Front of house.
- Allergen management.
By conducting an audit across these areas, you can confirm whether or not your takeaway complies with best practice guidelines and appropriate legislation.
When you are selling food that will be consumed by the public, it’s a legal requirement for you to provide clear allergen information. Fourteen food allergens are known to cause mild to severe reactions in people that suffer from allergies. Click here to view our infographic outlining the fourteen food allergens.
Any items on your menu that contain any of the fourteen food allergens must have clear allergen information provided either:
- Orally (on the phone when the customer places an order); or
- In writing (printed on your takeaway menu or clearly displayed on your website).
It’s also vital that you explain to your customers exactly where allergen information can be obtained on your website. Such information should be clearly marked and easy to access for all customers.
All of your staff must be fully trained on allergen awareness (Including your delivery drivers). This is because the law requires that you provide allergen information before the order is finalised and at the point of delivery to your customer.
When creating your takeaway menu, you should pick foods that are low risk and are capable of being transported efficiently under temperature control. This includes foods that can cook at very high temperatures and retain these temperatures for a long time once cooked.
You should avoid lightly cooked food and keep your menu simple to avoid having too wide a selection. This will help to avoid wastage and the chances of cross-contamination when menu items that are not popular start to deteriorate in storage.
Taking food orders
Food orders may be placed over the phone or via a food delivery app such as Uber Eats, JustEat, and Deliveroo. When the order is placed, all controls must be set up so that all the allergen information is provided before the completion of the order.
This is easy when taking a telephone order. However, your takeaway must make sure that all allergens for each item on the menu are listed on the popular food delivery app menu pages. Simply put, you must have all the correct measures in place to provide a safe, allergen-free meal for your customers.
Food safety instructions and information
Information must be provided to the customer on how they can ensure that the takeaway food is safe to eat once it has been delivered.
For example, they must be told if the food is for ‘immediate consumption’, or whether it is safe to reheat or freeze. If the food can be frozen, you must provide instructions on how to defrost and reheat the food safely. We recommend that you advise customers that takeaway meals are not to be treated as ready meals, to freeze and reheat at home. For this reason, you should advise against bulk ordering.
Any cool boxes or hot boxes used to transport food must be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly both before and after use. You should clean these boxes with warm soapy water and a clean cloth. Ideally, you should use a food-safe sanitiser that meets BS EN 1276:2009, along with some disposable paper towel.
Food temperature must be controlled to make sure that harmful bacteria doesn’t grow. To guarantee safe food temperatures, you have to consider the time it takes to pack and portion the food and the travel delivery time.
Hot food has to be held at 63℃ or above. Food can fall below 63℃ for a period of up to 2 hours only during service or display. Cold foods must be kept below 8℃ to keep them safe and ideally between 0-5℃ during service or display hours. Cold food can be held above 8℃ for a period of up to 4 hours.
Regardless of whether you use these exemptions, you must never serve food that could be unsafe. Keeping a fridge thermometer in the cool box to monitor temperatures when travelling is advised.
The use of insulated cool boxes, bags with ice packs, or insulated hot boxes will help comply with these requirements.
Takeaway food containers and packaging should be sourced from reputable suppliers and must be graded at a suitable level for its intended use. All takeaway packaging must be stored in a clean/dry area to avoid contamination at all costs.
In the UK, it’s a legal requirement for all food handlers to have an up-to-date food hygiene training certificate. This is seen as essential to making sure that good food hygiene standards are met, and the general public is kept safe from harm.
Staff training also educates every member of your team on efficient food safety standards and best practices. Once all your staff are trained, they are responsible, and therefore accountable for making sure that the food hygiene standards in your takeaway remain high at all times.
We hope that you’ve found this five-minute guide informative and insightful. For more information on food hygiene, check out the wealth of articles that we have as part of the CPD Online College Knowledge Base.