Whether you’re baking cupcakes to sell at local fairs or making lunches for local office workers, your home kitchen is subject to all the same hygiene regulations as a commercial kitchen.
Running a food business from home is a cost-effective and convenient way to get started in the business, but it’s vital that you adhere to strict food hygiene policies. This isn’t just a matter of legal compliance, it’s a matter of reputation and public safety.
If you’re preparing food for commercial purposes in your home kitchen, you must register your business with the local authority. You’ll receive regular food hygiene inspections like any local restaurant or coffee shop, so you must take steps to ensure compliance. Serious breaches of hygiene regulations could result in hefty fines — or even the closure of your business.
Here are a few pointers to get you on the way to food safety compliance in your home kitchen.
Have the right facilities in place
All commercial kitchens are expected to have certain facilities in place:
- Hand washing facilities (hot water, soap, drying facilities and a dedicated sink)
- A sink for food preparation only
- A first aid box (and first aid procedures)
- A probe thermometer
- Fire safety equipment and procedures
- A clean and hygienic kitchen with measures to control bacteria and pests
- A food hygiene system/policy (signed off by you or a responsible person)
- Effective ventilation
- Effective refrigeration/freezing
- Suitable cleaning equipment
- Equipment and procedures for the disposal of waste
- Temperature control mechanisms
- Food separation mechanisms
- Hot and cold water for consumption
- A personal hygiene policy (that must be observed at all times)
- Protective clothing where necessary
Keep accurate records
Just like a restaurant kitchen, you need to maintain and store records that demonstrate you’re managing the hygiene and food safety standards in your kitchen. For example, you’ll need to check fridge temperatures regularly, and record those checks (the maximum temperature is 8C, but 5 is the limit you should work towards). Other records you need to keep include food delivery temperature, cleaning schedules, core cooked food temperatures and pest control visits.
Manage your kitchen closely at all times
Too many commercial kitchen managers fall into the trap of managing their kitchen hygiene on the basis of passing official inspections. They fill in paperwork retrospectively, and create shortcuts wherever possible. However, the most effective (and least stressful) way to manage kitchen hygiene is to implement all of the necessary measures every day. If you’re always abiding by health and hygiene regulations, you’ll never have to worry about an announced inspection.
Aim for the stars
Food safety inspectors work for local authorities, and they’re empowered to force you to make improvements to your systems or your infrastructure. They also have the power to serve prohibition notices — closing you down until you can demonstrate that your kitchen is fit for purpose.
Inspectors use a star-rating system to assess the cleanliness and safety of commercial kitchens. If your systems are in place and being followed, your kitchen is clean and in a good state of repair, and your paperwork is up to date and accurate, there’s a very good chance you’ll be awarded the top rating of five stars (excellent). It is possible to receive no stars, in which case you’re likely to be closed down there and then. These scores are available to the public, so it’s in your business interests to get the highest possible rating.
A few tips to maximise your food safety rating
- Generally speaking, running an organised, clean and compliant kitchen should be enough to get you a food safety rating of four or five stars. But to increase your chances of such a good score, here are a few final tips.
- First impressions count, so keep everything looking clean, and attend to repairs immediately
- Create your own food safety management folder (containing your paper records, guidelines, delivery notes etc)
- Make sure safety and hygiene are given priority in every area of your kitchen
- Train any staff you have in the basics of food hygiene, and make sure each employee signs a training document to acknowledge they’ve been trained. There are some good — and free — food safety training documents on the Internet.
- When food hygiene inspectors visit, never try to hide issues or lie. Inspectors have seen everything, and the more you try to obfuscate, the more the inspectors will search for breaches. Work with these food hygiene experts to improve your hygiene systems and achieve the best rating possible.
Keep your kitchen clean, organised and in a good state of repair, and there shouldn’t be too many surprises the next time a food hygiene inspector checks the cleanliness of your home kitchen.