Registering with the Food Standards Agency
- You can trade 28 days after registration.
- You may receive inspections.
- You’ll have responsibilities in running your business compliantly.
What does the Food Standards Agency do?
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) oversees food hygiene and safety across UK businesses by working in tandem with local authorities to ensure safe and hygienic practices are being met so that food produced and handled is safe for consumption. They, through working with local authorities, are also responsible for maintaining a register of food businesses and inspecting them periodically, issuing a rating out of 5 (Food Hygiene Rating Scheme) of which we are familiar. Ratings are publicly displayed at the business premised and can be accessed online too at https://ratings.food.gov.uk/.
Do I need to register?
Registering applies for anyone who is running a food business (should register 28 days before trading). This is defined by the FSA as someone who prepares, cooks, stores, handles, distributes, supplies or sells food. So if you’re selling cakes and bakes online, at a market or to other shops and businesses, or even supply ingredients you need to register – not if you’re baking for a family get together or an irregular school fair.
Make sure you have a suitable kitchen, home or premises
One of the things that the FSA looks for in a HACCP plan is a separate handwashing sink. Obviously, a lot of homes only have 1 sink in their kitchen, so you must see how you can fulfil this obligation, you can seek advice from your local authority to see what may be acceptable, for example having a double sink with a dedicated handwashing sink. Make sure sinks are cleaned from other household purposes before beginning a baking session.
Speak to your landlord or mortgage lender about your intention to run a home baking business to make sure you’re not breaking your contracts.
Some home businesses may require planning permission. You should seek advice from your local authority about this and be aware that business rates could apply if parts of a property are used for business purposes.
You should also think about business contents insurance and public liability insurance, which we’ll cover in a future article.
How to register with the FSA
First go to this web page and type in your postcode which will give you the name of the relevant local authority to register with.
You’ll be directed to the local authorities’ specific page where you can apply.
They’ll ask for contact and business details, usually the following questions:
- What is your role in this food business (do you operate as a sole trader, company or partnership)?
- What is the name of the food business operator (business decision-maker)?
- What is the operator’s address?
- Contact details of business decision-maker
- Trading name (name your business will be known as)
- Where is the establishment (location of food business)?
- The address of establishment
- Contact details for the establishment
- Is the establishment already trading?
- When is the establishment expected to begin trading?
- What days will the establishment be producing, serving or handling food?
- What hours will you be operating on the specified days?
- Will you be supplying other businesses or direct to consumers?
- What type of food business are you?
- Will you be importing or exporting food?
- What type of water supply does the establishment have?
- Anything else you need to say about the establishment
Once you’ve submitted the details for registration, they will add your details to the register and if you don’t hear back then you know you have been accepted.
You can get your business setup and start trading 28 days after you registered.
You have responsibilities
Under the Food Safety Act 1990 you’ll have responsibilities to manage your operations in a safe and legal way and ensure you take measures to create a hygienic environment for baking.
- Ensuring that you are aware of hygiene standards and that you or at least one member of your business is trained in HACCP principles and can implement them. You should get a Food & Hygiene Safety Certificate.
- Withdrawal from market plan if any issues should arise with products.
- Making sure products are labelled correctly including allergens and they don’t mislead the consumer
- You’ll also need to follow certain guidelines on distance/online selling and general trading standards
It’s not as daunting as it seems, but it’s mainly so that you can ensure your baking is safe for public consumption and providing evidence that you have done things right. Future articles will cover these responsibilities in greater detail (subscribe to our newsletter for updates).
When will I be inspected?
Inspections can be carried out at any reasonable time.
“They have the right to enter and inspect your premises at any reasonable time. Authorised officers will usually arrive without making an appointment.¹“
During lockdown they have prioritised meat business over baking as it carries more risks with hygiene and contamination. The frequency of visits depends on the risks of the type of food produced and the record of previous visits or if complaints are made, etc.
They can enforce and take measures as well as advise to help your business get on track but foremost to protect the public from harmful food.
They have many resources on their website to help you be compliant and ensure standards met.
They have also created a checklist to help you prepare for inspections, though many points wont apply to baking businesses.
Some other things to think about before starting your baking business:
- Registering as self-employed
- Hygiene certification