During one of our recent risk assessment training sessions a discussion arose over assessing the risk on the sale of food and refreshments at charity events. Halloween is almost upon us and with more coffee mornings, cake sales and Christmas approaching fast, I thought it worth taking a closer look at what the law says. The Food Standards Agency is the independent Government department that works across England to protect public health and consumers' wider interests in food.
First and foremost, food supplied, sold or provided at charity or community events, such as street parties, school fetes or fundraisers, must comply with EU food law and be safe to eat.
You may need to register with your local authority as a food business if you provide food on a regular and organised basis. However, in the majority of cases where you handle, prepare, store and serve food occasionally and on a small scale, you do not need to register.
If your activity is not registered as a food business, you don’t have to provide information for consumers about allergens present in the food as ingredients. However, it is recommended that you do so as best practice. Given recent widely reported incidents it is wise to follow this advice.
Food hygiene certificates
You do not need a food hygiene certificate to make and sell food for charity events. However, you need to make sure that you handle food safely.
Keeping food safe
Keep in mind the 4cs of food hygiene – cleaning cooking, chilling and avoiding cross contamination general tips include:
• prepare food in advance and freeze it, if you can, but ensure the food is properly defrosted before you use it
• wash your hands regularly with soap and water, using hand sanitisers if hand washing facilities are not available
• always wash fresh fruit and vegetables
• keep raw and ready-to-eat foods apart
• do not use food past its use-by date
• always read any cooking instructions and make sure food is properly cooked before you serve it
• ensure that food preparation areas are suitably cleaned and sanitised after use and wash any equipment you are using in hot soapy water
• keep food out of the fridge for the shortest time possible
Use-by dates show how long the food remains safe to eat or drink. Check and follow the use-by dates of the food you serve. Food cannot be supplied in any circumstances if its use-by date has passed. This also applies if you are supplying people with packaged food from a food bank.
Foods that need extra care
Some foods such as raw milk, raw shellfish, soft cheeses, pâté, foods containing raw egg and cooked sliced meats are more likely to cause food poisoning than others.
Cake sales are very popular. Who doesn’t like cake! You can serve home-made cakes at community events. They should be safe to eat, as long as:
• the people who make them follow good food hygiene advice
• the cakes are stored and transported safely
Using jam jars
It is safe to re-use glass jam jars occasionally to supply home-made jam or chutney as long as the jars are properly washed. If jam jars are re-used, they should be free from chips and cracks, and should be sterilised prior to each use. Well-fitting lids will also minimise any hygiene risks to the food in the jars.
The regulations on food contact materials, which may limit the re-use of jam jars, apply to businesses. These regulations are highly unlikely to apply to the use of jam jars for occasional community and charity food provision.