Food safety for businesses

Starting a food business

When 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 you will need 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 28 days before you plan to open. Registration is free.

Application to register a food business [external link]

You can email us on [email protected] or call 01325 405111

The Food Standards Agency [external link] has a booklet called ‘Starting Up’ which has good advice.

Inspection of a food business

Environmental health officers have powers under the Food Safety Act 1990. They do unannounced inspections of food businesses to check they are being managed properly and are following food laws.

The number of visits will depend on the type of food business. The past standards at the premises will also be taken into account.
This means higher risk premises are visited 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 then talk to the person in charge and/or staff about how the business operates, training, temperature control, pest control and 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 brief 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. This will then be confirmed in magistrates' court.

Our food safety officers will give advice on how the law affects your business. Email [email protected] or call 01325 405111.

More information can be found 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. Food hygiene training courses are recommended for anyone involved in a food business.

There are a number of local training centres, includingDarlington College [external link] 

The council does not do food hygiene training courses.

Mobile food sellers

The place where the vehicle is usually kept must be registered with the council under the Food Safety Act.

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 on 01325 405888 or email [email protected]

The food safety officers working for the five councils in the Tees Valley all have the same rules for food sellers working outdoors.
Traders are asked to keep a folder with basic details about the vehicle and the business. This should be kept with fire risk and food safety self assessment forms. You should also have copies of documents that prove food hygiene training or safety tests carried out.

The folder must be available for an officer to check. This will make inspections a lot quicker.
General advice has been prepared by the councils in Tees Valley. The forms you need to complete are also available:

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 [external link] 

You must review any disinfectant to make sure it meets one of the above standards. This information should be printed on the product itself, the packaging or the safety data sheet.

If the product does not meet either standard it must be replaced by a product that does.
Always follow the manufacturer's instructions relating to proper dilution of the chemical, the effective temperature range and the necessary contact time. Since 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

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 a practical approach to food safety management. It was developed by the Food Standards Agency 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]