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Starting a New Food Business

Starting a New Food Business

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:

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:

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.


Additional Information

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

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email


Food Safety Management System (FSMS)

A Food Safety Management System is a planned and methodical approach to controlling food safety hazards within a food business. The main purpose of FSMS is to ensure the food produced/served is safe to eat. All food businesses are legally obliged to put in place, implement and maintain FSMS based on the principles of Hazards Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).

The Food Safety Management System must be:


Terms Used in Food Safety Management Systems

To better understand FSMS procedures it is important to clarify what the terms hazard, risk and control measures mean from the food safety perspective.


Hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm. Food safety hazards can be:


Risk measures the likelihood that a hazard will actually cause harm together with how serious the problem could be.

An undercooked chicken being served at a large wedding party is likely to make a lot of people very ill with Salmonella food poisoning and is clearly a ‘high-risk’. On the other hand, finding a slug in a bag of ready washed salad, though undesirable, is quite unlikely and most likely will not cause any real and serious harm. As such, this could be considered as ‘low-risk’.

Control Measures

Control measures are precautions that are taken to reduce the chance of a hazard occurring (to an acceptable level of risk). These measures could include making sure food is stored at the right temperature in a refrigerator, covering food to prevent physical and microbial contamination or training stuff on how to clean and disinfect a work surface. It is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity., an online health and safety training platform, developed and run by experienced Health and Safety professionals offers convenient and affordable full online food safety courses.

Critical Control Point (CCP)

Critical Control Point (CCP) is a step at which control can be applied and is necessary to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or to reduce it to an acceptable level.


Advantages of Food Safety Management System

Following a FSMS will give confidence of compliance to the management and can help to reduce food waste. The food regulations put an obligation on all food businesses to identify any steps in their activities that are crucial to food safety.

Some of the advantages of adopting a food safety management system are that it will:

Everyone in the food business needs to know about the FSMA that is in place. This will help to assist all staff in realising their role and responsibilities in limiting risks to the consumers from food related hazards.


Hazards Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)

HACCP is the internationally recognised food safety system that was developed by NASA in the 1960s. It is developed to ensure safe food for space flights and to prevent food poisoning of astronauts in space. Since then HACCP developed and improved based on available food scientific data and has been recognised internationally as a convenient tool to manage food safety. This system is well proven in making all aspects of food production safer and is designed to make sure food businesses can identify and deal with the hazards and risks involved in the production and handling of food.

Specifically, HACCP looks at how food is handled and introduces procedures to make sure the food produced is safe to eat. HACCP plans must be kept up-to-fate and will require reviewing on a regular basis and whenever something in the food operation changes.


HACCP Principles

HACCP is a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards. HACCP principles have seven steps that must be followed at all times:

  1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis – establish what could go wrong at every stage of food processing and put in controls to make sure it does not happen. For example, bacteria harmful to health could survive if raw chicken is not cooked enough. Proper cooking will control this hazard.
  2. Identify Critical Control Points (CCP) – recognise the most important points where things can go wrong. For example, thorough cooking will reduce bacteria to a safe level.
  3. Set Critical Limits for each CCP – set a measurable limit that determines safe food from potentially unsafe food. For example, make sure the core cooking temperature has reached at least 75°C.
  4. Set up Checks for each CCP – monitor each CCP to prevent problems occurring. For example, check the core temperature with a thermometer every time food is cooked.
  5. Corrective Action – decide what to do if something goes wrong. For example, continue cooking until 75°C is reached, review staff training, etc.
  6. Verification – prove that your HACCP plan is working. For example, check that control measures are being applied and corrective actions have been taken when needed.
  7. Record Keeping – maintain an accurate record of all of the above. For example, complete a record form showing all the checks that have been carried out.

The success of a HACCP system depends on educating and training management and employees in the importance of their role in producing safe foods.


Other HACCP Based Food Safety Management Systems

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has developed the Safe Catering Pack. The Safe Catering Pack is designed for caterers as a practical, easy-to-use, food safety management system. The pack was designed for caterers but it may also be used by other food businesses. It is ideal for businesses that have not yet developed their own food safety management system, but may also be used by businesses to improve existing systems.


Online Food Safety Training

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email

Food Storage and Deliveries

Proper food storage and deliveries play an important role in ensuring that the food remains safe to eat. Existing food businesses which intend to start delivering food orders need to consider any new or different risks posed by this change in operation. They should adapt their Food Safety Management System to make sure food placed on the market remains safe to eat. Businesses that already deliver food, directly to the customer or to another business, must ensure uninterrupted safe food handling practices.


Food Deliveries

It is important that food is purchased from reliable suppliers. ‘Due diligence‘ demands that care be taken on purchase handover. When food is delivered, a person responsible for the receipt of the food should check:

Always and without any doubt reject any food that you are not happy with and return it to the supplier! Always make sure that the transfer time after purchase of frozen or chilled foods is as short as possible, preferably in cool bags or boxes and that the food is stored in the refrigerator or freezer in the shortest possible time. Remember:


Food Storage and Deliveries – Spoilage

Food is spoiled when it is unfit for human consumption. The main causes of food spoilage are usually the following:


‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’ Dates

Most food packages are labelled with a ‘Use By‘ or ‘Best Before‘ date. It is an offence to serve food that has exceeded its use by date. Such food should be discarded or clearly marked ‘Unfit for Human Consumption‘. ‘Best Before‘ dates are often an indication that the food will be at its premium quality if stored correctly until that date.


Dry Stores

Not all food must be kept refrigerated or heated. Some food can be kept in dry stores. However, many dried or dehydrated foods such as milk powder, powdered eggs, etc. will allow bacterial growth if they become moist. It is therefore essential these foods are stored in a dry place and are used immediately after preparation. All dry foods, including flour, biscuits, etc., will remain safe whilst dry.

Dry stores key points:

  1. Storage areas must be well lit, clean, cool, dry and well ventilated.
  2. Free-standing slatted shelves allow good ventilation and evidence of pest infestation to be seen quickly.
  3. Food should be stored off the floor to allow thorough cleaning.
  4. Good stock rotation will prevent build up of old stocks and will reveal evidence of pest infestation quickly.


Stock Rotation

All food should be stored in date order and the First In First Out (FIFO) rule followed and observed. To help with stock rotation:


Other Food Storage and Deliveries Hazards

There are other food safety hazard points associated with food delivery and storage. Safefood lists a number of additional hazards that are associated with the food storage and deliveries. These can be read in their Food Delivery & Storage article.


Online Food Safety Training

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email


Shelf-life of Food Products

Shelf-life of food products is the period of time during which a food product maintains its acceptable or desirable characteristics under specified storage and handling conditions. These acceptable or desirable characteristics can be related to the safety or quality of the product. They can be microbiological, chemical or physical in nature.

Regulation (EU) No.1169/2011 requires that the shelf-life of a foodstuff be indicated by either a date of minimum durability “Best-before” or a “Use-by-date”.

Most food packages are labelled with a Best-before or Use-by-date. It is a legal offence to serve food that has exceeded its “Use-by-date”. Such food should be discarded and clearly marked ‘unfit for human consumption’.


Shelf-life of Food Products – Best-before

The “Best-before” date refers to quality. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. For example, its flavour and texture might not be as good. The date of minimum durability, or “Best-before” date, is the date until which a foodstuff retains its specific properties e.g. taste, aroma, appearance, any specific qualities which relate to the product, vitamin content etc. when the product has been stored appropriately and the package unopened.

Typically, a shelf-life of food products marked “Best-before” date is used for food products such as canned, dried, ambient, frozen foods etc. Many foods that are past their “Best-before” date may be safe to eat, but their quality may have deteriorated.


Shelf-life of Food Products – Use-by-date

The “Use-by-date” on food is about safety. Foods can be eaten until this date but not after, even if they look and smell fine. The “Use-by-date” is the date up until which a food may be used safely i.e. consumed, cooked or processed, once it has been stored correctly. After the “Use-by-date” date, food is deemed unsafe and can be danger to human health. The food cannot be sold or served past its “Use-by-date” date.


Food Labelling

Proper food labelling can prevent food poisoning, ensure food safety and prevent food wastage. The European Commission estimates that up to 10% of the 88 million tonnes of food waste generated annually in the EU is linked to date marking on food products.

It is the responsibility of a food business to ensure that the food provided to customers is safe to consume. In order to do this, proper food safety protocols must always be adhered to and followed. This includes ensuring that food is not spoiled or expired. “Best-before” dates, packaging dates and “Use-by-date” (expiry dates) are key to knowing what foods are safe to prepare and serve, and which ones should be disposed of. Different types of date markings on packages are used depending on the product.

The “Best-before” or “Use-by-date” dates for a specific shelf-life of food products is decided by the food manufacturer or producer when developing their food safety management system, based on HACCP principles, for the product.


Safe Handling and Storage of Food

Food businesses must ensure that all food received and stored in the food business is checked for “Best-before” and “Use-by-date” dates. It is essential that food is not only handled and stored properly, but also used within the proper time frame. Food should be stored using the First In, First Out (FIFO) method.

Satisfactory rotation of stock is essential to ensure older food is used first, to avoid spoilage and to ensure food is safe.

High-risk and perishable foods have a short shelf life. They are usually stored under refrigeration and have “Use-by-date”. It is unsafe and illegal to alter this date or sell the food after this date.

Low-risk food, which does not support the growth of bacteria is given a “Best-before” date. The food is at its best quality  and/or condition uo to this date. It is, however, not illegal for it to be sold after this date.

“Use-by-date” should be checked daily whereas weekly checks may suffice for products with “Best-before” dates.

Out of date stock should be disposed of.

All food handlers in a food business should be checking “Best-before” and “Use-by-date” dates on a regular basis. Food safety training is the best way to ensure that all food handlers are able to understand their duties under Irish food safety legislation as well as to follow best food safety practice guidelines.


Online Food Safety Training

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email