Can I start a food business from home?

Sarah Daniels The RedCat Partnership Ltd

We receive many enquiries from people who wish to cater / prepare food from home; whether it is for a charity cake sale, or whether for a community lunch, or just as a small business.

If you start preparing food or baking from home – what would you need to think about?

Well in essence the food you provide needs to be safe for the consumer. It must be free from any contamination that could make the person consuming it ill or cause them harm (think glass &/or bacteria)
So let’s start with your Premises - The where you will be preparing food– most well designed and maintained domestic kitchens will conform to Food Safety requirements- maybe with a bit of tweaking- say removing the odds & sods that accumulate and not doing the domestic washing at the same time
Floors and walls
Floors and walls must be maintained in good condition. They must be easy to clean- so tiles work well. Essentially floors and walls should be smooth, hard-wearing, washable and in a good state of repair- so they can cope with the extra usage and cleaning!

Windows & Doors- openings to the outside
Windows and doors must be easy to keep clean, and while you are preparing foods they should be closed- so we do not flies & other floating debris joining the  food process
Surfaces (including the surfaces of any equipment you need to use) in areas where food is handled, particularly those that are touched by food, must be maintained in a good condition and be easy to clean and to disinfect.
You should:
• Always disinfect (think anti-bacterial spray & a clean cloth or kitchen roll)  worktops before you start preparing food
• Wipe up any spilt food straight away- especially foods like raw egg
• Always disinfect worktops thoroughly after they have been touched by raw food including meat, poultry, soily vegetables or raw eggs
• Never put ready-to-eat food, such as washed and ready to eat salad, bread or washed fruit, on a worktop or chopping board that has been touched by raw meat or other raw foods, unless you have disinfected it thoroughly first- this is cross contamination
Hand Washing
When you are using your kitchen for ‘commercial’ (preparing for others) purposes you need to have a separate hand basin in the kitchen for washing your hands. Hands are the easiest way for bacteria to be transferred from one food/ surface to another. Your hands need to be washed thoroughly after going to the toilet, putting the bin out, touching raw foods etc. If you have a double sink you could say one is the wash hand basin, or if you have a dishwasher use that and keep the sink free; or if you have a downstairs loo with basin close by- keep that free for your use!
We have a hand-washing poster in our knowledge section of the website
Other personal hygiene requirements;
• Clean clothing underneath your apron
• Jewellery kept to a plain wedding band style ring only
• Hair tied back if it can be
• Not preparing food when you are not feeling well
• Covering cuts with a waterproof dressing
• Short nails
Storage of Ingredients
You should to store your ingredients away from your personal foods to help eliminate the risk of cross contamination and help prevent unwanted allergens in to your food. It would be best to have a separate area and fridge where your ingredients can be stored and prepared. Or if you do not have the space separate containers; for small amounts of preparation you can buy the ingredients and use them straight away!
You will also need to store the finished product safely where it cannot be contaminated

Process- the how you are preparing food
If you are setting up a small business then the easiest safe system of work method you can follow is the Safer Food Better Business which has been produced by the Food Standards Agency to help small businesses with their food safety management procedures and food hygiene regulations.
When you are buying your ingredients make sure you are using a reputable supplier (This could be a supermarket, a local farm shop or a wholesaler). This will ensure that the goods you’re buying are as safe as they can be
You need to make sure you keep all animals/pets out of the kitchen when you are preparing and cooking your foods; as they can contaminate the food. Also all non food related items should be removed- the laundry, the pile of bills, the kids toys/ homework
Before you start your business you need to make sure that you understand all food safety aspects. It is a legal requirement for all members of staff working in a kitchen to have suitable food safety training- the law says commensurate with your duties! We recommend that all staff have a minimum of the Level 2 Award in Food Safety.
Level 2 training gives you the understanding of all basic food hygiene matter- you can do this course with use via eLearning or via a taught course; check our website for further details eLearning is available at anytime, and we deliver a taught Food Safety course at least every month.
Before starting you business* you must register your home address with the Council as a food business.  This is free and there is a simple form to fill in, but it is a legal requirement and you can be prosecuted if you do not register before starting.  The form must be returned to the council 28 days before you begin trading.
*If you intend to prepare food for 5 days in any five weeks you should be registered – small scale baking for charity sales will not need to be registered.
Even if you are not registered you still need to comply with Food Safety Guidelines

If you are not sure which insurance cover you need, this should help you;
Public liability insurance – will cover the cost of a claim if a customer or member of the public is injured or killed, or if their property is damaged because of your business. If you cater in different venues they will expect you to have an appropriate level of public liability cover.
Employers’ liability insurance – if you hire staff, even casual or temporary workers, you must have employers’ liability cover by law. It will pay the cost of a claim from an employee who has been injured at work, or who has become seriously ill as a result of working for you
We would suggest you contact Hugh J Boswell at  if you are unsure – generally it really is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
NB. Some household insurance policies may contain this – so it is wise to check

Transportation, Packaging & Labelling
This is the bit that takes place out of the confines of your home – if you are transporting food, it needs to be done without it becoming contaminated; sealed boxes/ tins work well. In some cases you will need to individually package foods.

It is wise to ensure that the consumer is aware of the ingredients; you could design a label, or send the food with an ingredients sheet; so that persons with Allergies, intolerances and dislikes can check- we all follow different recipes so it’s important for some people to know!
Trading standards – do have a number of different information leaflets

For foods such as meat products, it would be wise to include a note to say keep refrigerated and use by..... We would suggest that your use by is only 3 days including the date of preparation; you product needs to be eaten when it is fresh and safe- and it does not contain the umpteen chemicals that shop produced food can to give it the long shelf lives we see in supermarkets!
Protein Foods can be displayed for one period of up to 4 hours out of temperature control. This one period may be you transporting the food unless you use a cool bag.

With respect to Allergens the Food Standards Think Allergy poster is in the knowledge section of the website. It is imperatively that if someone has an allergy and they want to consume the food you have produced that they can ask you about the ingredients you have used, or if you are not going to be present when the food is bought- then include an ingredients label or information sheet (dependant on the event)
‘Made by Sarah D– this cake contains walnuts and a cream cheese filling’
Packaging; the amount of packaging will depend on where the food is being sold/ displayed; on a cake stall for charity- a cake stand or open tin may suffice, or you may need to individually wrap; but  all packaging must be food grade, and you must prevent any contamination of the foods
Many people wrongly believe that they cannot prepare food from their domestic kitchen- I hope this blog helps to dispel those myths; and with a bit of planning the food you produce for sale, for a community project or for a charity coffee morning will be safe as well as enjoyable

For further information;

Your local Environmental Health Departments may also have leaflets/ guidance.
As does the Food Standards Agency and specifically on setting up a food business

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