Rumours, records, ratings, and a bit of rocket science
I follow lots of B&Bs on Twitter and it’s a great community with B&B owners helpng each other out and giving advice. I was watching a discussion the other day about the food hygiene rules and there seemed to be conflicting advice out there. So I thought I’d ask an expert! Rachel Jones and her husband, Richard, run A470 Training , specialising in hospitality and licensing qualifications
I’ve been following Rachel for a while on Twitter and am impressed by how knowledgeable she is in her area of expertise. I’ve also met her in real life and am happy to report that she is as witty and fun to be with in person as she is on Twitter. So time to debunk some myths……
Rumours, records, ratings, and a bit
of rocket science
Guest Post by Rachel Jones of A470 Training
For new B&B owners, it may come as a bit of a surprise to find yourselves
categorised as a food business. After all, you’re not running a fancy
restaurant or catering for more than a handful of guests – how hard can it be?
But like it or not you’re making your living, partly, from preparing and serving
food. Otherwise you’d just be running a B!
If you haven’t run a food business before you may be daunted by the “red
tape” aspect, but for a small business like
a B&B it’s actually really simple.
Food safety regulations require food business operators to have “appropriate”
training for the job they do. There’s no legal requirement to do a particular
qualification, but if you’re offering cooked
breakfasts then the one-day Level 2 Food
Safety in Catering course will give you the best grounding, as well as a
nationally recognised certificate which proves you’re up to a certain standard.
If you’re short of time there are plenty of online courses available (eg
though personally I’d always recommend a tutor-led course so you can ask questions and share ideas with other learners.
There are thousands of courses nationwide, and plenty of independent trainers
who should be willing to run courses on your own premises – you can find
accredited trainers and more information through awarding bodies like Highfield ABC
and the CIEH.
One of the first things I ask on a
food hygiene course is whether anyone has done one before. It helps me
determine who might need extra attention – and also who I can pick on to answer the difficult questions! Invariably,
at least 3 people say “I’ve done it before, but my certificate has expired”.
Actually, food safety qualifications don’t “expire”, but awarding bodies
recommend you have refresher
training every 3-5 years. No-one’s saying you have to do the whole thing
again – there are short refresher courses with a new certificate at the end,
but refresher training could be something less formal. The point is that you
can demonstrate to your Environmental Health Officer (EHO) that you’re making the effort to keep
your knowledge up to date. Get into
the habit of recording any additional learning you do (eg attending events,
reading industry publications or internet research) and you’re halfway there.
All too often the first you hear about food safety “paperwork” is when your EHO turns up with a thick folder under his arm, and leaves it lurking ominously on your kitchen
table. Food businesses need to keep
some basic records so they can demonstrate that they’re following best practice
all the time, not just when the EHO happens to visit. Large food businesses
have been doing this for years, but since 2006 ALL UK food businesses, however
small, have been required to have a written food safety system based on Hazard
Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). Don’t panic, let me explain…
I used to tell learners that HACCP wasn’t rocket
science. Basically it’s looking at
your food operation, anticipating what might go wrong, and taking steps to prevent it – much better than waiting
for something to go wrong then trying to figure out why. I then found out that
in fact it WAS rocket science, developed
by NASA in the run-up to the Apollo missions. They couldn’t afford to risk food poisoning in space, so needed to identify and
eliminate all potential risks. HACCP
became the industry standard for the vast food production businesses across the
and ultimately worldwide.
However, it wasn’t designed for small businesses and so the Food Standards
Agency produced the excellent Safer
Food Better Business pack
(that ominous folder) to help small caterers get their written system in order.
Whilst a large food factory might keep
detailed records every day, a B&B only needs to work
through the pack, keep some basic records (such as fridge and freezer
temperatures) and record any problems when they occur. It may take a couple of hours to do the initial groundwork, but should take
no more than seconds to complete each day. Easy peasy. Frankly, any small caterer who tells you they spend
hours each week on food safety
paperwork is doing something very
wrong. You don’t have to use the pack
or accompanying diary if you’re happier with your own system, as long as you
can show you‘ve thought about any potential problems and how you would handle
Scores on the doors
Most local authorities are now operating a food
safety rating scheme, with businesses being graded for 0-5. Designed to
increase consumer confidence, the scheme also encourages food businesses to
raise their game. For a small, low-risk
business like a B&B it should be
fairly easy to achieve a good rating, but do bear in mind that a large part of
the scoring will be based on your food safety system and something called
“attitude of management” – are you doing your best to operate safely and
legally and to keep your knowledge and skills
up to date?
So, if you haven’t done so already, time to brew a fresh pot of coffee and dust
off that lurking file. And remember,
it’s only rocket science…