Starting a New Food Business
2 June 2023
It is very important when starting a new food business to be in compliance with all relevant food safety laws. The main purpose of food law is to ensure a safe food supply. In addition, its purpose is to protect consumers’ interests in relation to food. When a business starts handling food they are regarded as a ‘food business operator’. It is a legal responsibility to make sure that the business complies with food law and produces safe food.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is responsible for enforcing food legislation in Ireland. The FSAI carries out this enforcement through service contracts with official agencies.
Official agencies (such as HSE) carry out inspections, take samples and conduct audits of the food businesses they supervise. This is to check that the food businesses are complying with the law. They will also take enforcement action if they discover a food business has broken the law. Enforcement officers from the official agencies are also a good source of food safety information.
Starting Points to Starting a New Food Business
At the initial stages of starting a food business, it is important to contact the official agency appropriate to the nature of the business. This is so the food business can be registered and, if necessary, apply for an approval number.
To operate legally a food business:
- Be registered or approved.
- Have a set of controls in place to ensure safe food – formally known as a Food Safety Management System (see Safe Catering Pack).
- Have an effective traceability system in place, which will allow withdrawal or recall of food from the market if a safety problem is discovered.
- Ensure that everyone handling food in the business has received enough food safety training to allow them to do their job safely. For fully online food safety training, please explore food safety course via eLearn Safety online training platform.
- Comply with the relevant food law.
A wide range of food is available in Ireland today. Whether that food is produced by a large multi-national company or a small local food producer, it must be safe for consumers to eat.
The Main Responsibilities of a Food Business
The main responsibilities of a food business are:
- The food business must ensure it does not include anything in food, remove anything from food, or treat food in any way which means it would be damaging to the health of people eating it.
- The food business must ensure that the food it serves or sells is of the nature, substance, or quality which consumers would expect.
- The food business must ensure that the food is labelled, advertised and presented in a way that is not false or misleading.
To summarise, the food for human consumption should be protected from contamination. In addition, it should be fresh and of good quality with accurate and correct labelling. Everyone deserves to be protected against food that might make them ill and that is exactly what the law aims to do. By operating an effective Food Safety Management System, businesses can abide by the law more easily. The Food Safety Management System does not mean ‘additional’ work. It means aiming to do things in the right way, every day. Good procedures will go a long way towards ensuring success.
Ensuring Compliance with Food Law
The food business ensures compliance with food law by operating a Food Safety Management System. The system must be based on HACCP (Hazards Analysis Critical Control Point) principles.
By law, a food business must be able to show what procedures are followed to ensure that the food it makes or sells is safe to eat. These procedures must be written down. Everyone who handles food must be trained and qualified in safe food handling practices. The up-to-date records of all training and refresher training should be kept on records. All food handlers must receive appropriate instruction in the essentials of food hygiene before they are allowed to start work.
When it comes to food, it is important to consider accountability and traceability. A food business must be able to show where food stuff came from and where it goes to. This is important if the business sells to a retailer, but not if it sells to a customer. There has to be a clear path to indicate ‘who did what’ when food handling is in question.
Operating an effective Food Safety Management System means that food business practices are routinely checked and recorded. This will enable the business to comply with legal requirements. It will also help compile a ‘due diligence’ defence, should one be needed.
For useful information about starting a new food business in Ireland, please refer to FSAI Resources Booklet for Small Food Businesses. In addition, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) provides beneficial content for new businesses and those already running businesses. They often organise and moderate webinars aimed at those wishing to start a new food business. More information is available on the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) website.
Online Food Safety Training
Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.
To find out more, please check our Courses page.