Food safety for businesses

Starting a food business

When first planning to set up a food business it is important that you consider carefully the type of food you will be producing or handling, the amount of equipment you will need and the space and layout that will be required. For example, you may need different areas for the preparation of raw and cooked foods.

If you are starting a new food business or taking over an existing one you must register it with the Local Authority where the business premises are located 28 days before you plan to open. There is no charge to register and registration cannot be refused.

A registration form will be sent to you on request. This form should be completed and then returned when it has been signed by the food business operator. Alternatively the form may be completed online and in this case the food business operator will be expected to sign the form when the first inspection visit is made. The information on the completed form will be entered onto the Local Authority’s register.

Application for the registration of a Food Business [pdf document]

Contact Environmental Health on environmentalhealth@darlington.gov.uk or 01325 405111. An officer from the commercial team will then respond to your request within one working day.

The Food Standards Agency [external link] and their booklet ‘Starting Up’ provides excellent advice to food business operators.

Inspection of food premises

Officers from the Environmental Health Section are employed to protect and improve public health by enforcing a wide range of legislation. Some of these Officers are authorised under the Food Safety Act 1990 and they carry out unannounced inspections of food businesses to check they are being managed properly and assess compliance with food laws. The frequency of visits will depend upon the type of food that is handled/prepared and the standards maintained at thee premises. This means that higher risk premises are visited more frequently. Officers are out and about during the day, in the evenings and at weekends and no advance notice of the visit is generally given.

The officer on arrival will explain the purpose of the visit and show identification, if requested, and will then talk to the manager/proprietor and/or your staff about such things as your systems and procedures, training, temperature control, pest control and waste collection. They may inspect all parts of the premises, look at the equipment and may ask to see any written records and documentation.

The officer will leave a written record detailing the purpose of the visit and a brief summary.

Depending upon the conditions found, the Officer may offer advice and guidance and confirm this in writing asking you to put right any problems. While we will always try to resolve the situation by informal means, sometimes, where poor conditions persist or where there is a risk to public health, we may take more formal action including prosecution for the offences found.

If there is an imminent risk to health of customers, the Officer can serve an Emergency Prohibition Notice. The Magistrates Court is then requested by the Council to confirm this action by the making of an Emergency Prohibition Order.

Our Food Safety enforcement officers are always willing to give advice on how the law affects your business. Contact Environmental Health on environmentalhealth@darlington.gov.uk or 01325 388799. An officer from the commercial team will then respond to your request within one working day.

Further information can be found on the Food Standards Agency website [external link]

Training of food handlers

Food handlers must be aware of the basic principles that apply to the safe handling and preparation of food. Food hygiene training courses are always strongly recommended for anyone involved in the running of a food business. A number of local training providers including Darlington College [external link] provide nationally recognised training courses.

The Council do not provide food hygiene training courses.

Mobile food vendors

The place where the vehicle is normally garaged or kept must be registered with the Council under the Food Safety Act.

Food Safety, Fire Safety, and the Health and Safety at Work legislation apply to the business.

In the Darlington town centre street trading is only permitted from a licensed pitch. In other areas trading is permitted provided the vehicle and staff selling have been approved and there is no contravention of highway or planning legislation. For further information of the areas where there are restrictions contact the Licensing Section on 01325 388577 or licensing@darlington.gov.uk

The Food Safety Enforcement Officers working for the five Local Authorities in Tees Valley have adopted a common approach towards food caterers/vendors operating outdoors including general guidance. Traders are asked to keep in a folder a form providing essential details about the vehicle and the business; and the completed Fire Risk and Food Safety self assessment forms together with copies of documents that prove food hygiene training or safety tests carried out.

The folder is expected to be available for an authorised enforcement officer to check at an event helping to reduce inspection times to a minimum. General advice has been prepared by the Councils in Tees Valley together with a Business Summary form and Food Safety and Fire Safety self assessment forms to assist food business operators.

Cleaning and disinfection

The guidance published by the Food Standards Agency: Ecoli Control of Cross-Contamination [external link] requires that all disinfectants and sanitizers used in premises handling raw and ready to eat foods must meet British Standard BS EN 1276:1997 or BS EN 13697:2001.

Food business operators are required to review any disinfectant or sanitizer to ensure it meets one of the above standards. This information should be printed on the product itself, the packaging, or the safety data sheet. If you cannot find the information you should contact the manufacturer. If the product does not meet either standard it must be replaced by a product that does. Products must be used strictly in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions relating to proper dilution of the chemical, the effective temperature range and the necessary contact time. Since effective chemical disinfection can only be achieved on visibly clean surfaces, a cleaning stage is required first.

More information about cleaning products that comply with the standards [external link]

Farmers markets

Please download our Farmers markets - hygiene and labelling advice document [pdf document] for more information. 

Safer food better business

Safer food, better business (SFBB) is an innovative and practical approach to food safety management developed by the Food Standards Agency to help small businesses put in place food safety management procedures and comply with food hygiene regulations.

The SFBB guide is available online and is designed to meet the specific needs of different food businesses. It can be downloaded from the Food Standards website free of charge (free of charge). There are packs for catering businesses, retail businesses, and childminders. A DVD guide is also available in 16 different languages.

New catering businesses are eligible to receive free hard copies of the SFBB directory from Environmental Health

Toilets for customers

Guidance on numbers and types of toilets to cater for customers is available on request from Environmental Health.

Darlington Borough Council has not adopted the legislation requiring that customer toilets must be provided where seats and tables are provided for customers to consume food or drink on the premises.

Guidance for Home Bakers

Home Bakers - Food Safety Pack [pdf document]