Food Safety Week is from the 6th to the 12th of June this year and sees a range of agencies including Food Standards Agency and Scores on the Doors come together to promote the production of safe food.

So what you may ask? How does this affect you in your business?  Food safety is one of those things, like insurance or healthcare that is not a priority until something bad happens.  Then all of a sudden it’s the most important thing in the world.

So to act as reminder of what you should be doing and the positive business impact of following good practice in safeguarding your business and helping become more profitable, we’ve produced a Top 10 checklist, plus a game of True or False? To see how well you are really doing in 2011...

Top 10 EHO Food Safety Points for running a ‘tight ship’

Here’s your top 10 food hygiene checklist pulled together from  EHOs operating across the Scores on the Doors regions. Score your own business and see how you get on.

  1. Are all your staff aware of (and sticking to) the correct working hygiene practises?
  2. Do you have a robust & documented Food Safety Management System?
  3. Are your systems built on HACCP principles? (Hazard, Analysis, Critical Control Points)
  4. Are staff trained to appropriate level? (ideally Level 2 Food Handler Certificate)
  5. Do you have a cleaning schedule showing what to clean, who cleans, and when?
  6. Are you aware of the imminent changes to food labelling (new ‘use by’ rules)?
  7. Do you routinely use probe thermometers to check food temperatures?
  8. Are staff aware of the Danger Zone temperatures & times?
  9. Are you displaying your food hygiene inspection rating in your premises?
  10. Have all the foods that you produce been included in your food safety management system?

Confident that you’ve got these more or less covered?  Now let’s test your knowledge with a quick game of Fact or Fiction. Be careful, we’ve included a couple of tricky ones...

True or False? - The Food Production Game

True or False 1 – “While it’s advisable to follow HACCP Principles, very small catering businesses including mobile catering vans can opt-out of having a full documented Food Safety Management System”.

True or False 2 – “The only definite way to kill all bacteria is to cook an item above 82 degrees for 2 minutes, or deep freeze an item below -10 degrees.”

True or False 3 – “You need a special licence/permission to use a Wooden chopping board”.

True or False 4 – “Day care nurseries & care homes are not covered by food safety law because they don’t actually sell the food, it’s given away as part of a wider offering”.

True or False 5 – You can be fined up to £5,000 for a serious or persistent food hygiene failure in your business.

True or False Answers...

Answer 1 – False. It doesn’t matter how small your business, it still needs an FSMS that incorporates HACCP Principles, You could be visited by an EHO anywhere, yes even the burger van on the car boot sale.  And your system is not up to date you’re going to be in trouble.

Answer 2 – False.  While its true that 75 degrees for 2 minutes is the correct guideline for cooking, this will still not kill ALL bacteria, it will just reduce it to a safe level. Similarly, freezing doesn’t kill all bacteria, it just slows its growth.

Answer 3 – True. Colour coded chopping boards are recommended. Wood can only be used for a “butchers block” and you will need a special licence.

Answer 4 – False.  Just the act of preparing or handling food for the public means you are governed by the same Food Hygiene legislation as food retailers where money exchanges hands.

Answer 5 – False.  Actually, the fines can be way higher than this. Food Handler staff can receive £5,000 fines and 6 month prison sentence. Supervisor/owners can be fined £20,000 and up to 2 years in prison. In exceptional circumstances fines have recently exceeded £1million.

How did you score?
How did you score in these two tests? The point is that what’s good for customer (safe food) is good for the business.  The points made if followed will actually help your business run more efficiently by controlling waste safe guarding your reputation.  In other words they’re the cornerstone of a 5 star Scores on the Doors food hygiene rated business.

Free stuff to help you

To celebrate Food Safety Week we’ve team up with commercial partners The Safer Food Group to offer some free opportunities to improve your knowledge and even get qualified.

FREE HACCP training courses
To increase your food safety knowledge & improve your use of HACCP and Food Safety Management Systems, Scores on the Doors have teamed up with The Safer Food Group to offer a FREE Fundamentals Edition of their Safer Food System (HACCP) online training course.  
Visit our home page above to sign up.


Podcast
We’ve produced a short Podcast to accompany this article that sees Nick Eastwood out on location in the Lakes at a major Hotel with a major Norovirus outbreak.
You can listen to it Here.





If the thought of your EHO’s next visit doesn’t exactly fill you with glee, you’re not on your own...

The stress of EHO visits came second in the Top 10 causes of concern in the Safer Food Group’s March 2011 survey of independent caterers.  (71% voted this as a major headache, with only worries over rising costs scoring higher).

But your next EHO visit needn’t be the headache it’s traditionally seen as.   The theme of this latest newsletter is reducing the stress of your next EHO visit.  And maybe even gain a business benefit or two from the occasion...

What is your EHO actually doing there?

First thing to tackle is what’s your EHO actually going to look at on the visit, and best can you prepare for a positive and straightforward inspection.

To help you with this we interviewed Stephen Broadbelt, an experienced EHO familiar to most businesses in the Cambridgeshire District council region.  (Who better to advise you than an EHO instrumental in establishing the Scores on the Doors food hygiene rating system?)

“The days of hiding in the walk-in chiller and keeping your mouth shut until the EHO have gone thankfully, these days it’s all about being open and honest.  If  you’ve got a concern, share it with your EHO and you’ll get the advice and help to put it right...”

Stephen Broadbelt, EHO continued “We are encouraging people to be honest.  A lot of improvements are no-cost or very modest in cost.  And if any changes are needed it’s all about safeguarding your  customer’s safety, and that has to be good for business for the caterer”.

We’ve summarised the interview into Stephen’s top 10 points your EHO is likely to be focusing on in their next visit:

EHOs Top 10 inspection points:

  1. Are the premises really clean throughout? (first impressions really do count)
  2. Do you have hand washing stations & evidence of their use?
  3. Are you all observing correct working hygiene practises?
  4. Are there any signs of pests? (mine, rats, insects etc)?
  5. Are you observing correct stock control?
  6. Are you preparing, cooking and storing correctly?
  7. Do you have a Food Safety Management System?
  8. Have you identified your Critical Control Points?
  9. Have you prepared a list of questions to asking during your de-brief?
  10. Have you received practical advice on how to improve star rating?

  11. If you’re not fully familiar with all these points, don’t worry. Contrary to the popular myth, your EHO is no ogre.  If in doubt, ask.  Here’s our quick guide to the potential business benefits of an open and honest partnership with your EHO...

6 benefits of an improved working relationship with your EHO:

  1. Potential improvement in your Scores on the Doors food hygiene rating
  2. Public recognition of your standards, PR & commercial opportunities
  3. Free advice on reducing food waste and other efficiencies
  4. Reduced likelihood of food poisoning affecting your customers
  5. Reduced threat to your livelihood caused by an outbreak and closure notice
  6. Increased confidence in you, leading to potentially reduced visit frequency


Summary

Your next EHO visit doesn’t need to be headache.  If you know what they are likely to want to look at, you can be prepared, and the chances of a nasty surprise are much reduced. Eg Point 7 of Stephen’s inspection points list;  get  your Food Safety Management System documentation in order and up-to-date as they’re are almost certain to ask to see this.

More information

For more information and in-depth comments from Stephen Broadbelt, EHO, please listen to the accompanying Podcast ‘Preparing for an EHO Inspection’.





What do the largest hotel chains in the world and your local sandwich shop have in common?  Other than both serving food, the one thing they share is that irrespective of size, both are governed by exactly the same UK laws when it comes to food safety and ‘HACCP’.

'The Food Hygiene Regulations Act 2006' - Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 states that all UK food and drink businesses must put in place a ‘Food Safety Management System incorporating HACCP principles, and keep up-to-date records.

Environmental Health Officers are now enforcing this law across the UK and caterers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to implement a Food Safety Management System, especially as the public become more aware. It was even featured as part of the story line on the popular BBC1 series, “Waterloo Road”

Ignoring this pre-requisite for operating ANY food or drink business is no longer an option.

Will a Food Safety Management System help
increase my “Scores on the Doors” Rating?


Yes it will.

33% of your rating is based on “Confidence in Management”.

To achieve 5 Stars, you must implement a Food Safety Management System incorporating HACCP principles, and keep up-to-date records. It’s the Law.

A fully documented and working FSMS will not only help you improve your ratings but will also help you run a safer and more profitable business.

If you do not implement a system, you can only ever achieve a 3 Star Rating.



What is HACCP and a Food Safety Management System?
HACCP stands for ‘Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point’. Basically, it’s the process of identifying possible threats to food safety and setting acceptable limits for each. Then putting systems and procedures in place to ensure food production stays within these safe limits.

However, HACCP is just a part of a Food Safety Management System (FSMS), and it is this complete system that an Environmental Health Officer will be looking for evidence of.

This all sounds complicated!
Actually, it’s not! Once you have set up your system, it takes a minimal amount of time to monitor, check and verify. Most businesses will be able to complete all the daily checks in less than 10 minutes. It may sound and look a daunting prospect, but once implemented, it is quick and easy to monitor and more importantly helps you identify potential hazards in your business. It will also provide you with a strong due diligence defence in case something goes wrong.
                                       
The system is designed to ultimately help you provide “safe food to the public”.

How can I get a Food Safety Management System?

1. Ask your local Environmental Health Officer
You can ask your local EHO to help implement your system. Average time needed will be 4 to 6 hours, so basically you will need to allow an EHO total access to your business for at least 4 – 6 hours! Time is a problem for most businesses and you will also need to allow for follow up calls to check implementation.

2. Attend a 3 to 4 day, Face-to-Face Course
This will provide you with all the information you need, however, it is an expensive option and you will have to spend at least 3 days away from your business, stuck in a classroom. You will be provided with all the information, but you will still have to set up a working system. There will probably be no follow-up help or support, unless you pay!

3. Use an on-line downloadable system and training course
Utilising the benefits of a face to face course; (guidance and knowledge from real food experts, who understand what an EHO is looking for). A fully downloadable system provides all the forms, process flow charts, HACCP plans, frequently asked questions and help guides you need to implement a Food safety Management System. Combine this with the time freedom of an on-line course. You work at your own speed, when you want to. It is your choice to determine when and where you work, you do not have to spend days out of your business.




Attracted by headlines such as “Scores on the doors to reveal dirty restaurants in your area”, 12 million people per year search the Scores on the Doors website for information on how their local restaurants and takeaways are performing in terms of food hygiene, confidence in management and premises.

Looking at the scheme’s impact and recent events affecting food safety and the catering industry, we have identified six factors that may combine to create the ‘perfect storm’ for your business in 2011.

The Freedom of Information Act - Perfect Storm Ingredient 1
Made UK law in 2005, the Freedom of Information Act gives everyone the right to access information held by Public Authorities, and makes the government responsible for making this information easy to access.  This includes Environmental Health Officer reports on how your food business performed in recent inspections.

- Looking a bit cloudy...

The Food Hygiene Regulations Act - Perfect Storm Ingredient 2
The Food Hygiene Regulations Act 2006 brought into place a series of procedures mandatory for every food business. The most significant of which is that every food business must implement and maintain a documented Food Safety Management System. 

(Designed to help you identify, control, monitor and eliminate hazards to avoid a catastrophic error in food safety that will injure or even kill a member of the public)

- Starting to rain...

Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) - Perfect Storm Ingredient 3
Following the implementation of 2006 Food Hygiene Regulations Act, the EU commissioned a report to look at food poisoning rates, and compliance since the law was introduced.  This showed two things; firstly an increase in food poisoning incidences since 2006, and secondly an insufficient uptake of business implementing a Food Safety Management System.  Concluding the ‘former’ was a result of the ‘latter’, EHOs nationwide are now driving enforcement, visiting every food business in the UK demanding to see evidence of your live documented Food Safety Management System. Inspection rates and enforcement orders are expected to increase in the run up to the Olympic Games. 

- The storm builds...

The Scores on the Doors Food Hygiene Star Rating System - Perfect Storm Ingredient 4
Already familiar to millions of users as a review system, plus anyone using the hospitality & leisure industry in the last 30 years. The zero to five star system chosen for Scores on the Doors is already familiar to the general public, and makes it easy to understand how clean your business really is.

- Its getting choppy now…

The Internet & Smart Phones - Perfect Storm Ingredient 5
What’s the internet got to do with your business? The emergence of the internet, social media, Facebook and mobile phone technology has made sharing information cheap, accessible, immediate and pretty much everyone’s using it. If you don’t believe us, check out the iPhone app for Scores on the Doors.  Customers can just point their smartphone at your premises and it will tell them your Scores on the Doors rating.

- It’s getting pretty windy...

The ‘Big’ Recession - Perfect Storm Ingredient 6
You will probably have noticed we are in the midst of economic problems unprecedented in modern times.  With a lot more job losses likely in the public sector and a continued recession, there will be less spend on catering right across the government, corporate and consumer sectors.  Less money in the system means less spend through your till.

Feeling a bit cold as well now...

In a nutshell...
Looking at this a little more simplistically, the formula for a perfect storm of events for your business could be:

Complacency + Law + Enforcement + Scores (Public Data) + Recession = Danger

What’s the solution?
Every storm ends, and believe it or not there are very real opportunities in 2011
In a recession, people are making more informed decisions on where to spend their money.
 
Evidence proves that they are far more likely to go to a food business with 5 Stars where they believe they will have a better experience and be less likely to get food poisoning.

They expect a caterer to have a high standard of food hygiene

The PR opportunities from being a high scoring food business are a great boost. You will get more customers than a 1 or 3 star business!

Your task surely is to make sure you’re positioned to do as well as possible during the storm, and be perfectly positioned to be the business people choose in a competitive environment.

Here’s some advice on what to do next...
Contact your EHO and take immediate steps to achieve and maintain 5 stars in the Scores on the Doors Rating Scheme.

If you don’t yet have a robust, live and fully documented Food Safety Management System that incorporates HACCP principles, implement one. (Remember it’s the Law)

33% of your rating is based on “Confidence in Management”.
To achieve 5 Stars, you must implement a Food Safety Management System incorporating HACCP principles, and keep up-to-date records. It’s the Law.

A fully documented and working FSMS will not only help you improve your ratings but will also help you run a safer and more profitable business.

Ask your EHO verify that your systems are fully in order.


With 5 star rating comes the commercial opportunity, the silver lining.
The public will use this to make a judgement about the overall quality of your business.

Your objective once at or near 5 stars rating is to tell everyone you can.

Existing and potential customers and the local press need to know as your success in this scheme separates you from other rivals. Building confidence in your customers whilst inevitably creating doubt in the minds of consumers over business not scoring as well as you.  

And finally...
Here’s something to think about. The next time you see anyone near your premises using a mobile phone, should you be worried or pleased?

 

 



You may find it strangely reassuring that even famous chefs have, shall we say, areas for improvement within their businesses. One such fertile area is food business cleaning schedules.
In the last year 68% of the food businesses we have worked with did not have a cleaning schedule in place. A cleaning schedule is a mandatory requirement of a Food Safety Management System. It’s all about knowing what to clean, when to clean, how to clean and who cleans. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Let’s have a quick look where it goes wrong...

3 reasons why Cleaning Schedules fail
1. Many business don’t have one. Most cleaning involves (busy, tired, bored) people and thus is liable to go wrong. The majority of food business do not have a documented cleaning schedule that’s fit-for-purpose (ie up-to-date, staff aware of it and actually following the schedule in full).

2.They involve people. The second reason for failure of a cleaning schedule is that it relies on people to implement it. People tend to creep (or veer) away from the correct way of doing something unless policed, until it becomes unsatisfactory. An example of this is contact time for cleaners and disinfectants. How many times have you seen a table sprayed only for it to be immediately wiped. How long should it be left? 30-60 seconds, but you knew that already.

3.People are complacent. The third reason for failure of a cleaning schedule, and perhaps biggest threat to food safety is a dash of complacency over anything to do with paperwork and this includes management. (Read on for proof).

Add one or all of these potential failure points together and we (you) have the potential for disaster. Whether that disaster is a food poisoning outbreak that kills someone, or a PR disaster like the following depends on fortune...

The latest celebrity chef to attract unwanted
media attention is...

The latest in a line of celebrity chefs to gain some unwanted national media attention over controversy surrounding their restaurant is Antony Worrall Thompson. Antony has scored 1 star in his first assessment for the new Scores on the Doors, a national scheme rating every food business for food and premises hygiene.

“After receiving a one-star Scores on the Doors rating at his Greyhound pub, chef Antony Worrall Thompson vows to keep up with the paperwork in future while calling for a more mature approach to enforcing standards”. You can read this article in full at http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2010/07/30/334508/Morale-takes-a-hit-in-our-X-Factor-world.htm

The moral of the story...
Giving Mr Thompson the benefit of the doubt, he’s probably got a very clean kitchen and really cares about his customers. However this story does highlight the importance of two things; firstly having a proper documented cleaning schedule as part of a robust Food Safety Management System, and secondly the rising importance of The Scores on the Doors Scheme, currently rolling out to cover every food and drink business in the UK.
At the heart of every food business serving fantastic, safe food is a robust and documented Food Safety Management System. We designed The Safer Food System to be the definitive Food Safety Management System in the UK. It contains (among many other features) downloadable Cleaning Schedules with videos and support on how to implement them in your business, so you don’t do a ‘Worrall Thompson’.

Here’s a challenge to your staff...
As we go in search of some more food and drink celebrity gossip that loosely suits our point, we’ll leave you with the following challenge. If you still think your cleaning schedule and procedures are fine (and your staff are following them to the letter), ask them to show you where the schedule is and ask when they last looked at it. You may be surprised. And not in a good way.

More info
If you want some advice on cleaning schedules, or Food Safety Management Systems don’t hesitate to contact Marcus or Nick from the Safer Food Group. Contact us on 0115-9720748 or click on the contact page link above.