‘Tis the Season….

 

As we move far too quickly towards Christmas, our thoughts turn to gifting and finding the right present.  Food and drink make great gifts and are often an easy, and well-received, solution for both family and business colleagues.

Christmas for many people involves preparing sweet treats, chutneys, jams and biscuits, which make extra special gifts as they are homemade.  School fairs, community and charity events and local markets are often full of delicious, traditional Christmas treats to tempt us and help tick some names off the gift list.

Amongst the Christmas atmosphere and hustle and bustle, food hygiene may not necessarily be front of mind.  It is however even more important that certain standards are adhered to when supplying food and drink made in the home for public consumption.

Food supplied, sold or provided for charity and community events must comply with EU food law and, of course, be safe to eat.  The Food Standards Agency can help with guidelines: here are some of the basics things you need to know.

 

  1. Registration

Those who provide food on a regular, organised basis, whether sold or given away free, will probably need to register with the local authority.  The FSA provides guidance on this with examples, but if still in doubt, check with your local authority.

However, if you’re preparing, handling, storing or serving food as a one-off and on a small scale, you don’t need to register.

 

  1. Allergen information

If your activity does not need to be registered, you do not need to provide allergen information on ingredients for consumers.  However, it would be best practice to do so.

 

  1. Food hygiene

Neither do you need a food hygiene certificate to make and sell food for charity events, but, you do need to make sure food is handled safely.  Here’s the top line on keeping things safe – covering cleaning, chilling, cooking and cross-contamination – when it comes to making food for large numbers.

  • 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
  • Food that needs to be chilled, such as sandwich fillings served as part of a buffet, should be left out of the fridge for no more than 4 hours.

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.

If you serve any of these foods, there is advice in the ‘Foods that need extra care’ document from the FSA, attached below.

 

  1. Cakes

 

There’s always lots of cake at community events and you can serve homemade cake.  To ensure cakes are stored and transported safely they should be in a clean, sealable container.  Use a cake slice or tongs when handling and do not leave cakes that contain fresh cream or cream cheese out of the fridge for longer than 4 hours.

Although hard to ascertain, those making cakes at home should follow good food hygiene standards – washing hands before preparing food, making sure surfaces and equipment are clean.  It’s best not to accept anything where eggs are not fully cooked, such as mouse or tiramisu.

Everybody loves a bit of homemade Christmas and there is nothing better than a festive mince pie or a jar of pickled something all tied up with ribbon and lovingly prepared.  If you follow simple guidelines and include Food Safety in your general preparation and planning, it will help ensure a happy and healthy festive season for everyone.

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