Food Safety Legislation in the UK

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Washing facilities

It is a legal requirement for all food businesses to have hand washing facilities. Hand washing facilities must be for hand washing only and have adequate access for staff to wash their hands. The hand wash sinks must have hot and cold running water, soap and drying facilities. It is also recommended, although not a legal requirement, to have separate food and equipment sinks with hot and cold running water.


UK food legislation includes:

The food safety act 1990

The food hygiene, England, regulations 2006

EC 852/2004 regulation on the hygiene of foodstuffs

Since 2004 the Food Safety Act has become more concentrated on food quality rather than food safety.

If any of the laws of broken, an individual or business can be prosecuted. Food safety is covered under criminal law which involves being prosecuted in either a Magistrate or Crown court. The Magistrate court deals with less serious offences, termed summary offences, whilst the Crown Court deals with more serious offences, termed indictable offences.

Penalties in the Crown Court include an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years. The penalties in a Magistrate court are £20,000 fine and/or six months imprisonment.

The enforcement officers who oversee the legislation are called Environmental Health Practitioners.


  • provide food safety advice, and inspect food premises
  • enforce legislation covering food
  • can enter and inspect premises at any reasonable time of the day or night and can be accompanied by the uniformed police
  • can investigate outbreaks of foodborne disease, food poisoning and other possible offences
  • can instruct that food be destroyed if it is considered unsafe to eat
  • can issue improvement and prohibition notices
  • can take food businesses to court for breaking food safety laws
  • can initiate prosecution by gathering evidence.

If a company is prosecuted they can provide a due diligence defence. This means that the business can prove that they took all reasonable precautions to prevent contamination and food poisoning. This due diligence defence is achieved with the use of written records. The written records are called the Food Safety Management System, which is a collection of records, procedures and all information regarding running the food business safely. The information includes some of the following:

  • training records
  • suppliers audits
  • pest control documentation
  • cleaning schedules
  • temperature records
  • maintenance contracts

There are legal requirements that apply to food handlers and these include:

  • keeping themselves clean
  • ensuring the workplace remains clean
  • to protect food from contamination or anything that cause harm to it
  • following good personal hygiene practices such as hand washing and regular bathing or showering
  • wearing clean protective clothing
  • informing their employer if they are suffering from food poisoning and foodborne illness.

For further information on the UK Food Legislation go to Food Safety.

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