What Does UK Law Say About Serving Food In Community Kitchens and Village Halls?

Southampton has its fair share of local community halls and kitchens, all of which are a great resource for raising funds for local events or charities, getting people together for a social event, or just helping others out. However, there can be confusion about to what extent food safety laws need to be followed at these sorts of events, which can result in some people having concerns about hygiene standards. UK law requires that any food being sold for charity or profit is safe to eat, which means it cannot be “injurious to health” or “unfit for human consumption”. Helping the volunteers that give their time in community settings to understand how to meet these standards can help communities to thrive by ensuring that local events are safe and enjoyable.

Serving tea, coffee, cakes, and biscuits

Serving things like tea, coffee, soft drinks, biscuits, toast, fruit, and ice creams are classed as low-risk foods, meaning that they’re unlikely to cause food poisoning. Any volunteers serving these kinds of foods are not required by law to have a Food Hygiene certificate, but any food is still required to be safe to eat. This means that basic food hygiene principles should be followed and are similar to the sorts of things people would do when preparing their own food at home.

This includes having good personal hygiene, thorough hand washing, having facilities to dry hands (ideally single-use paper towels), not coughing or sneezing over food, discarding food that falls on the floor or has signs of spoilage, and anyone who has had diarrhoea or vomiting in the last 48 hours should not handle food. The food itself needs to be in its original wrappings or in secure containers, surfaces need to be cleaned before using them, and fridges need to be below 8°C and food stored correctly in it. It’s also important to check ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates and ensure there are no signs of pests in communal kitchens.

Occasionally serving high-risk foods

High-risk foods are foods that need to be kept at certain temperatures to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria. They require careful handling to keep them safe and include things like meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, and any food that contains these once prepared, such as sandwiches and salads. Additionally, foods that become high risk once cooked are also included due to how quickly bacteria can grow, such as pasta, rice, and noodle dishes.

If volunteers are only serving this food occasionally, such as once every few months, there’s no need for them to have a Food Hygiene certificate but, as with serving low-risk foods, basic food hygiene principles should be followed. It’s also recommended that at least one of the volunteers has a ‘Level 2 Food Safety in Catering’ certificate so that they can supervise and advise others. All volunteers should also be aware of the four C’s: cross-contamination, cleaning, chilling, and cooking.

Providing high-risk foods regularly

It’s a legal requirement for anyone providing high-risk foods at least once a month to register as a food business by completing a Food Hygiene Registration Form, even if it’s small events at local halls. All volunteers will need adequate training, including on the risk of E. coli, and at least one person will need a Level 2 Award in Food Safety certificate. It’s also a legal requirement for there to be a written food safety management system in place and Environmental Health Officers will do unannounced safety inspections. They will then award a food hygiene rating that will be published on the Food Standards Agency Ratings website and offer any advice on improvements if needed. Additionally, it’s a legal requirement to provide allergen information when requested and also as standard good practice if you are offering food on an occasional basis – for instance for  cake sale or coffee morning and you intend to sell cakes and biscuits that may have nuts, dried fruit, or other allergens in them

The level of training and the extent to which food hygiene legislation needs to be followed largely depends on the types of foods that will be sold and how often. Low-risk foods, such as a tea and coffee morning at the local village hall, require the least amount of training and planning. Offering high-risk foods on a regular basis can be rewarding for communities and charities but it does require greater compliance and training for all volunteers involved.

 

Acknowledgements – Information and article kindly provided on a pro bono basis by writer Alicia Rennoll  

 

 Disclaimer  – SVS does not represent or guarantee that the information on this briefing is accurate, complete or up to date. SVS does not accept liability for any loss, damage or inconvenience due to the use of; or the inability to use any information contained in this briefing. Visitors who use this briefing and rely on any information do so at their own risk.

Disclaimer  – SVS does not represent or guarantee that the information on this briefing is accurate, complete or up to date. SVS does not accept liability for any loss, damage or inconvenience due to the use of; or the inability to use any information contained in this briefing. Visitors who use this briefing and rely on any information do so at their own risk.

October 2019

 

 

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