By Max Jenvey of Oxxygen Marketing Partnership, a strategic business accelerator specialising in foodservice, bakery and convenience retail sectors

Health & safety is crucial for every food business to protect our customers and food. Research analyst Him! found out that 48% of customers rated their local bakery/café as having dirty tables (Food-to-Go Report 2009). Considering cleanliness ranks in the top five areas of customers’ importance criteria we must deliver it.

There are four key operational aspects to consider. Shelley Steadman from Technical Foodservices specialising in hygiene, health and safety technical food consultancy, told us to identify the critical steps to food safety, training, hygiene and temperature control.

Each task in production, manufacturing and service must be broken down to identify where the critical food safety issues are and ensure that adequate safety procedures are identified, documented, implemented, maintained and regularly reviewed. These are most commonly referred to as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). Staff must be supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene in line with their work activities. Food premises must be kept clean, maintained and in good repair including keeping food at the correct temperature, whether served hot, cold or ambient.

Of course, everybody needs some help and guidance from time to time, so where can you get it? Approach your local authority’s Environmental Health Officer for advice. The Food Standards Agency website and food and equipment suppliers are also useful sources of information. For individual requirements, bespoke systems or one-off projects, technical food consultancies can also help you.

Remember the golden rules. Wash hands between every task, as wearing plastic or disposable gloves does not provide protection from cross-contamination. Treat gloves the same as your hands wash and sanitise them whenever you change tasks. Document all deliveries by capturing times and temperatures, using the principle of first-in, first-out to ensure good stock and date rotation. Whenever you open an ingredient, record the production and use-by date and remember to use an effective method of shelf-life identification post-opening for example, ’day dots’ are most commonly used.