What does ‘food business’ mean?

Under the proposed new legislation, ‘food business’ means any trade or business, whether for profit or not, both public and private, in the course of which any operation with respect to the production, processing, handling or distribution of food is carried out.

All food supplied outside of the domestic and family setting is required by law to be safe to eat. This is regardless of whether the operation supplying or selling the food is doing so to make a profit. This means that food must not be ‘injurious to health’ or ‘unfit for human consumption’.

This legislation lays down the food hygiene rules for all food businesses, applying effective and proportionate controls throughout the food chain, from primary production to the sale or supply to the food consumer.

What should I do when starting up a food business?

When you choose the premises for your business, it is very important to make sure that they comply with the food legislation, are suitable for the purpose of your business and allow you to prepare food safely.  When you are choosing new premises, or making changes to premises, it is a good idea to ask the Environmental Health Officers for their advice. They are there to help you.

If you run a food business from a mobile, or temporary premises, or from premises mainly used at a private dwelling, you still need to comply with the same hygiene rules as other food businesses. However on most occasions and because space is limited, greater flexibility is allowed.

All premises used for a food business are required by law to be registered. Registration allows the Environmental Health Section of the Health Directorate to keep an up-to-date list of all those premises in their area so they can visit them when they need to.

How often will Environmental Health Officers visit and what should I expect?

How often businesses are inspected depends on the risk associated with the particular business. As an example, a restaurant poses a higher potential risk than a shop selling only packaged food, and therefore would need to be visited more often. Most premises receive an inspection every one to two years, but premises judged to be ‘low risk’ will be visited less frequently than that.

The Officers will check if your business produces food that is safe to eat. To do this they will look at your premises, the kinds of food you prepare, how you work, and your food safety methods.

If you keep your premises clean and maintained in good repair and condition and your premises allow you to follow good hygiene practices, including protection against contamination and pests, then you have little to worry about.

Most food business operators appreciate the visits by Environmental Health Officers and the feedback they receive. If a food business is committed to good standards of food safety and is knowledgeable about food hygiene, then the inspection should be a co-operative and helpful intervention in support of business quality.


3 November 2015