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Food safety for businesses

Starting a food business

It is important to plan how you will deal with different types of food.

You need to think about the equipment and the space needed. For example, you may need different areas for raw and cooked foods.

If you are starting a new food business, or taking over an existing one, you must register with the council.

You must register 28 days before you plan to open.

Registration is free.

Application to register a food business [external link].

For more advice see the setting up a food business page of the Foods Standards Agency website [external link].

Inspection of a food business

Environmental health officers have powers under the Food Safety Act 1990.

They do unannounced inspections of food businesses. They will check premises are being managed and are following food laws.

The number of visits will depend on the type of food business.

The officer will consider the past standards at the premise. The officer will visit higher risk premises more often.

Officers can visit during the day, in the evenings and at weekends. No advance notice of the visit is usually given.

The officer will explain the reason for the visit. They will talk to the person in charge and staff about:

  • how the business operates
  • training
  • temperature control
  • pest control
  • waste collection

They may inspect all parts of the business and look at the equipment. They may ask to see written records and documents.

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

The officer may offer advice in writing and ask you to put right any problems. We will always try to resolve the situation by informal means.

Where poor conditions do not improve or there is a risk to public health, we may take more formal action. This could include court action for offences.

If there is immediate risk to the health of customers, the officer can use an emergency prohibition notice. The Magistrates court will then confirm the notice.

Our food safety officers will give advice on how the law affects your business.

You can contact us on:

You can find more information on the Food Standards Agency website [external link].

Training food handlers

Food handlers must be aware of the basic food safety rules when touching and preparing food.

We recommend anyone involved in a food business take a food hygiene training course.

There are local training centres available, including Darlington College [external link]

The council does not provide food hygiene training courses.

Mobile food sellers

Under the Food Safety Act, you must register the place is vehicle where the food is usually kept with the council.

Food safety, fire safety and health and safety at work laws apply.

In Darlington town centre street trading is only allowed from a licensed pitch.

In other areas trading is allowed if the vehicle and staff have been approved.

The vehicle must not break highway or planning laws.

For more information contact the licensing team:

Traders should keep a folder with basic details about the vehicle and the business.

Traders should keep this with fire risk and food safety self-assessment forms.

Traders should have copies of documents that prove food hygiene training or safety tests have been carried out.

The folder must be available for an officer to check. This will make inspections a lot quicker.

The forms you need to complete are:

Cleaning and disinfection

The Food Standards Agency rules state that all disinfectants used when handling raw and ready to eat foods must meet British Standard BS EN 1276:1997 or BS EN 13697:2001.

Ecoli control of cross-contamination guidance [external link]

You must review any disinfectant to make sure it meets one of the above standards.

You should print this information on the product itself, the packaging or the safety data sheet.

If the product does not meet either standard you must replace it with a product that does.

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions relating to

  • proper dilution of the chemical
  • the effective temperature range
  • the necessary contact time

Effective chemical disinfection will only work on visibly clean surfaces. A cleaning stage is needed first.

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

Farmers markets

See our farmers markets - hygiene and labelling advice document [pdf document].

Safer food, better business

Safer food, better business (SFBB) is a practical approach to food safety management.

Developed by the Food Standards Agency. It aims to help small businesses put in place food safety management procedures and meet food hygiene regulations.

The SFBB guide is available online [external link] 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 can receive free hard copies of the SFBB directory from environmental health.

Toilets for customers

Guidance on numbers and types of toilets for customers is available on request from environmental health.

The council has not adopted laws that state 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]

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