, , , , ,

The Catering and Hospitality Industry and Hygiene Post Covid-19

Back in March, the government’s emergency legislation in response to Covid-19, ordered restaurants and pubs to close down essentially overnight. The Catering and Hospitality industry remains one of the hardest hit by the crisis. As the months have rolled on and restaurants and pubs look to reopen their doors by potentially, early July, many wonder how things might have to change or become different post Covid-19, especially when it comes to food hygiene and food safety.

Post COVID or Post Lockdown?

The phrase ‘post COVID-19’ means after COVID-19. The prefix post- means “after” or “behind”.

If you take that at face value, this assumes the pandemic has finished so therefore COVID-19 controls will no longer be necessary and things can go back to the way they were, by virtue of the fact there will no longer be COVID-19 to control against. However, some people when they use the term ‘post COVID-19’ actually mean ‘post lockdown’ or ‘during the easing of restrictions’. We very much hope that things will return to normal as soon as reasonably possible!

While we remain optimistic, that does need to be balanced with a realistic mindset. We cannot predict the future, but COVID-19 has left its mark on all of us and as restrictions ease, there certainly must be measures that will have to be in place within catering establishments before business commences once again, as well as during service that will control infection and possible transmission of the virus. Some of these measures will be temporary, but some are likely to last longer.


Before returning to work and reopening

First of all, in order to safeguard both employees and customers alike, there must be necessary and specific prerequisites in place. This is to ensure foundational preventative actions are put into effect long before a customer sets foot on the premises. This will include but is not limited to:

  • Directors, Food Business Operators and senior managers alike, should have dialogue prior to staff returning to their workplace, in order to ensure that appropriate procedures can be developed and put in place before staff return. Further discussions should take place very soon after workers return to identify whether those controls are working and are being adhered to. It will also be necessary for further discussions as things evolve or anything significantly changes.
  • A formal review of the establishment’s Food Safety Management System and Risk Assessments to ensure adequate and additional controls are up-to-date and take into account current scientific and epidemiological information. This would involve: making sure that adequate virus controls are in place such as deep cleans which occur more frequently, perhaps considering the use of contract cleaners and also making use of new virucidal cleaning products, as well as anti-bacterial disinfectants
  • A strong emphasis on a good food safety and safety culture. A Food Safety Culture are the values, attitudes and behaviours that characterise a food establishment with regards to food safety. This is demonstrated by displaying to staff and customers that ensuring food safety is an important commitment and not just “lip service.” For this to happen, Food Business Operators, Managers and Supervisors must communicate standards and legal responsibilities of staff and the importance thereof. This is a continual process, which will reinforce good hygiene practice on a day-to-day basis. Examples of this could be:


  • Verbal or written instruction demonstrating good practice
  • The use of relevant training courses for staff 
  • Issuing company workbook and hygiene rules to inform staff
  • The use of notices or posters, markers, signs, tape and / or floor mats reinforcing this will serve as a guide and a visual reminder
  • Leading by example.


  • Additional Training for Furloughed Staff. As things will have changed considerably by the time staff return to work, make sure that staff are prepared and up to date with the latest information and any new or different control measures/ policies and that support is given for any queries they may have.

Cleanliness and Personal Hygiene

After prerequisites are in place, it is important that appropriate measures are carried out and continue when business resumes trading. Although studies to date show that the virus is not foodborne, it is even more important that food handlers regularly wash their hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds; keep their uniforms neat and clean, and any staff who are unwell or displaying coronavirus symptoms must NOT be at work but go home and follow the current government guidelines for quarantining. Food businesses should be aware that not only must basic hygiene practices be maintained but also areas of risk are recognised and that special attention is paid to these areas.

  Cleaning of surfaces and Touch Points

Any hand contact surface areas must be cleaned frequently in order to stop the transmission of the virus. Stringent and regular cleaning of door handles, tills, table surfaces, menus etc. must be implemented. It is also important that surfaces such as tables are antimicrobial, being smooth, impervious and without crevices for viruses to harbour in.

Screening of guests

In some establishments it may also be possible to send guests a health screening questionnaire upon booking and providing them with written information; reminding them of the guidelines regarding self-isolation, if they or someone in their household has symptoms of COVID-19.

The idea of temperature checking customers as they enter the establishment could also mitigate the risk of an infected individual entering and infecting others. However, in addition to asymptomatic cases, there have been cases of infected persons not exhibiting a high temperature as a symptom of COVID-19. Therefore, although this may be a useful tool, it is by no means infallible.

 Social Distancing and PPE

In order to practice social distancing within the premises, a few things may be done to aid in carrying this out:

  • A reduced set customer allowance number
  • Make use of outside seating areas (if possible)
  • Updated seating arrangement that conforms to the 2 metre rule (wherever possible)
  • The use of ‘long trays’
  • The ceasation of buffets
  • The appropriate use of PPE such as plastic face shields and disposable gloves

Although the above may seem straightforward enough on paper, this will present various challenges. We must acknowledge at this point that the area of social distancing is not so straightforward and is problematic (even potentially with a 1 metre distancing rule) not least for the following two reasons:

  1. One of the primary reasons people go out to restaurants, pubs and clubs is to socialize. Food is one of the primary binding forces of our culture and there is a lot more than going out merely to be fed. Social distancing is by definition not very social and will inevitably create an unusual and clinical atmosphere and will take away from the occasion.
  2. Many restaurants rely on volume of customers to make them commercially viable – it’s a numbers game. For customers to adequately socially distance it could mean that the majority of restaurants will need to run at a half capacity or less, which would not only lead to a drop in profits, but in many cases cause the business to run at a loss and subsequently, will be unlikely to survive under social distancing. This is one of the biggest challenges that will need to be overcome. It is however interesting that the current government advice is “…practise social distancing wherever possible.” (Emphasis added). In the many cases it will not be possible to socially distance.

These extra measures will likely be temporary and we, as a business hope things will return to normal soon. Some of our team had the opportunity to talk to an epidemiologist recently who believes that this virus is on its way out and it won’t be long now before it comes to an end. As much as we still need to be careful and remain on our guard, the measures we put in place must be proportionate to the level of risk. We should not be cracking the proverbial peanut with a sledgehammer! Are we really being driven by objective medical and scientific advice or are we being ruled by fear? It is important that common sense prevails and measures are reasonable and commensurate with the risks. It is important also that individuals balance and weigh-up the risks for themselves.


For practical advice on returning to work and workplace controls and to be COVID safe, please contact us.

, , , ,

The Efficacy and Effectiveness of Facemasks

Due to the ambiguous and conflicting nature of the little information we do have on the effectiveness of wearing a form of mask in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many food businesses have reached out to us with questions over the use of PPE in the workplace as employees start looking to return to work. There is little information on the efficiency and efficacy of masks regarding their ability to filter out respiratory virus particles, such as coronavirus; yet over 30 countries have made masks a legal requirement outdoors for the public. So this naturally begs a question: Is there a significant benefit in using some form of face covering for warding off this virus?

Firstly, in order to decide on their effectiveness, let’s look at the different types of commonly used masks and their intended purposes.

  • Surgical Masks: A disposable, multilayer mask intended to act as a barrier to protect surgical personnel and general health-care workers, as well as patients from splashes of blood, body fluids and large droplets.


  • N95 Respiratory Masks: Manufactured mainly for industries that expose employees to dust and other small particles, although some are designed for use in health care. As the name might suggest, this mask is designed to block 95% of very small particles, making them more protective than a surgical mask.


  • Cloth Masks: Since medical masks are discouraged for public use so as to preserve the limited supply for medical professionals, many have come to make their own out of fabric. Said to be less effective due to their porosity and often found gaps between the nose, cheeks and jaw area.


  • Plastic Face Shields: Used by many workers usually not used alone, but along with other forms of PPE.


Although there have been no significantly large scale clinical trials, studies have been made on different types of masks but neither tell us that masks are useful or just a waste of time. A certain study carried out in South Korea1 took four patients infected with coronavirus asking them to cough into separate petri dishes five times while wearing a sequence of masks along with no mask, each time. The result was that neither surgical nor cotton masks effectively filtered out SARS-CoV-2. It is worth noting that they did find greater contamination on the outer layer as opposed to the inner surface of the mask which may be due to air leakage around the mask’s edge which may have led to the outer layer’s contamination. Another study taken at the University of Edinburgh2 on 7 different face coverings including medical and homemade masks, proved that the surgical and homemade masks tested did help reduce the distance in which the micro droplets spread forward but did generate far reaching jets of air leakage to the side, behind, above and below especially in heavy breathing and coughing. Only the masks that formed tight seals around the face were found to prevent the escape of particles.

To sum up, due to the fact that most masks, especially homemade masks, are so porous and coronavirus particles so small, that while they may protect against larger droplets from a cough or sneeze, they do not act as a physical barrier. If you were to magnify under a microscope, the pores on a mask are as effective as chicken wire is to prevent dust particles from entering.


  • Proper PPE can help protect others if you are infected.
  • Studies show that the combination of wearing a mask and hand washing is more effective than hand washing alone.
  • Surgical masks reduce the amount of seasonal coronavirus particles.
  • Fabric masks may catch larger particles droplets such as from a cough or sneeze.
  • Psychologically, it may provide a sense of security and peace of mind for some.



  • No solid evidence to prove that it is significantly beneficial to wear.
  • Masks are not likely to protect the wearer.
  • It can increase your own risk of exposure because of possible mishandling of a contaminated mask.
  • The most readily available masks, homemade masks, are a lot less effective.
  • They MUST fit well with very few gaps in order to work well.

In summary, mask wearing may just be an extra add-on precaution. For some, they may just be helpful so as to provide a feeling of safety and security. Regular and thorough hand washing, as well as social distancing are still predominantly the best and most effective way of staying safe. There is no point in wearing a mask or another form of PPE if you are neglecting these most vital procedures.  We cannot put our faith in face covering to get us back to normal. It is absolutely vital, more than ever, that proper and continuous hand hygiene is maintained during this time.


For help and advice on keeping you and your customers safe during this time, please contact us.



  1. https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-1342
  2. https://www.ed.ac.uk/covid-19-response/latest-news/face-coverings-covid-19-transmission-risk






, , , ,

Food Hygiene Rating Scheme

Mystery Diner

About the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme

Find out about the UK’s Food Hygiene Rating Scheme that was filmed at Bluewater in Kent.

The scheme aims to help consumers choose where to eat out or shop for food by giving them information about the hygiene standards in restaurants, cafés, takeaways, hotels and food shops.

Ratings are given to places where members of the public can eat out, such as restaurants, takeaways, cafés, sandwich shops, pubs, and hotels. Ratings are also given to other places the public eat at, when away from home, such as schools, hospitals and residential care homes.

Places where the public shop for food, such as supermarkets, bakeries, and delicatessens are also given a rating. The overarching aim of the scheme is to encourage businesses to improve hygiene standards, thus reducing the incidence of food-borne illness.


How CaterSafe Consultants Can Help

CaterSafe can provide a professional analysis of your business’ food storage, preparation and production areas, food safety procedures and documentation. This is followed up with a written report containing implementation recommendations, to prove you have shown ‘due diligence’ when inspected by your local Environmental Health Practitioner.

An audit from us will help your business to achieve, or work towards, the ‘very good’ hygiene standard rating operated by the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.The hygiene rating scheme, enables your customers to see how closely your business is meeting the requirements of food hygiene law.

CaterSafe consultants provide a professional analysis of your business’ food storage, preparation and production areas, food hygiene procedures and management systems and your documentation.

This is followed up with a written report containing implementation recommendations, to prove you have shown ‘due diligence’ when inspected by your local Environmental Health Practitioner / Officer.

An independent external audit will help boost your ‘confidence in management’ rating on The National Food Hygiene Rating scheme (NFHRS), enabling your business to achieve the maximum NFHRS rating.

Contact CaterSafe Consultants

If you have any questions or would like to find out more about the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme – Contact CaterSafe Consultants today on 01233 822 201

, ,

Controlling E.coli O157

Minced beef

If you’re old enough to remember any major news events of 1996, you would be hard pressed not to recall the tragedy that unfolded in a small town in Scotland.   A butcher’s shop in Wishaw, Lanarkshire was the location from which the world’s worst recorded outbreak of E. coli food poisoning originated.  An outbreak in which twenty one people sadly died and an estimated 500 others were seriously ill and directly affected.

Thankfully these sorts of outbreaks are rare but they do occur, as proven by this event back in 1996 and, more recently, the outbreak in the USA where nearly 100 people in over 20 different states were affected by an outbreak of E. coli poisoning linked to romaine lettuce.  10 of those affected had kidney failure and 46 were hospitalised.

A potentially lethal pathogen, E. coli (Escherichia coli) is bacteria which lives in the intestines of humans and animals.  There are different strains of E. coli, most of which are harmless, but one particular strain produces a toxin called Shiga toxin.  This strain is called E.coli O157: H7.  The toxins produced can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever and bloody diarrhoea.  More seriously, it can destroy red blood cells causing kidney failure and, in worst cases, even death.  Not everybody will contract kidney failure or face a terminal outcome and will recover within 6-8 days, however, the risk is very real and should be taken extremely seriously.

The bacteria is usually found in contaminated food and water.  Food stuffs include unpasteurised milk/milk products (such as soft cheese etc.), undercooked minced beef, some raw fruit and vegetables or anything that might have had contact with faecal matter, possibly in or near a farm environment.  Crops most typically affected are items such as lettuce, spinach and sprouts.  It can also be contracted through contaminated water (drinking it or swimming in it) and possibly from a farmyard environment if you come into direct contact with animals.

With such serious implications, it is imperative that your business takes precautions to avoid contamination of any of your products:


  • Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing any food, – but especially before handling high-risk, ready-to-eat food
  • If you have been visiting a farm and had contact with animals (something you may well do on a frequent basis as a food producer or purchaser) make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before leaving and change/wash the clothes you were wearing before getting anywhere near any food preparation area
  • Ensure any minced beef product (including burgers) has been cooked to an internal temperature of at least 75˚C
  • Make sure any food product such as lettuce or spinach is washed thoroughly in clean water, especially if being served raw
  • Avoid cross contamination. Make sure you are meticulous about washing your hands and any implements you have used to prepare food before using them on a different food item
  • Always use sanitisers which meet the BS EN standards, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. (A database of compliant sanitisers and disinfectants can be found at: www.disinfectant-info.co.uk  here )
  • Where possible, keep food chilled below 5˚C as this slows bacteria growth. Raw minced beef products should ideally be kept below 3˚C
  • If anybody within your food business is infected with E.coli it is vital that they stay away from company premises and other work colleagues until they are completely clear of the infection as it can also be transferred by person to person contact. The general rule is 48 hours after symptoms have ceased, however with E.coli O157 it may be necessary to get medical clearance first.

The little butcher’s shop in Wishaw was the subject of numerous newspaper articles for many years following 1996.  They say there is no such thing as bad publicity but, when it comes to food establishments, it can be the kiss of death.  With the right precautions in place, your business should be able to stay free of E.coli and free of bad publicity.


To discuss your food safety requirements, please contact us today.

, , ,

Food Hygiene Courses In Kent

Food Hygiene Courses In Kent

With food hygiene being a critical aspect of any food handling business, training is vital to comply with legislation. At CaterSafe Consultants, we offer food hygiene courses in Kent, so that food handling teams operate safely and hygienically. To suit all businesses, we provide a range of different food hygiene courses at a variety of levels.

Who can benefit from food hygiene courses in Kent?

Maintaining food hygiene is vital to comply with legislation in the UK. In fact, anyone that handles food must have appropriate training for food hygiene. With this in mind, all food business operators need to make sure they ensure training for their employees either from previous experience or offering training.

Training is not only useful for frontline staff, but is also vital for supervisors, and senior staff such as management, head chefs and trainers. All of which are responsible for sharing their knowledge and make sure food hygiene principles from training as always applied.

Why should your business undertake food hygiene courses in Kent?

While the appropriate training is essential to comply with legislation, there are many benefits to providing your workforce with food hygiene training.

  1. Career advancement

Identifying key workers in your team to undertake higher levels of food hygiene courses will help you to promote supervisors within your team. It will also provide your organisation with further skills and knowledge that could improve production in your organisation. Furthermore, offering regular training to your team will help with your staff retention levels too.

  1. Appreciation

For many staff, cleaning and due diligence are the most arduous parts of the job, which means they are not always kept to high standards. Training your team about the principles of food hygiene and why it is so important brings a level of appreciation. Knowing their jobs could be at stake and that they are directly responsible can make sure that staff undertake their duties conscientiously and with pride.

  1. Efficiency

After training, food-handling principles become second nature, making processes much more efficient which can help with productivity. By following stringent measures learnt in training, the staff influence each other. Ultimately, this can help to bring a complete behavioural change to the organisation, in a positive way.

CaterSafe Consultants for food hygiene courses in Kent

CaterSafe Consultants offer a range of food hygiene courses tailored to suit different industries and business needs. For food hygiene training for your business, get in touch with our team for free, friendly advice.

, , , ,

Food Hygiene Courses Kent

Food Safety Courses

If your business is in the food sector, then your employees will need food safety training. If you make, handle, prepare or sell food, then your staff need training. Without sufficient training, supervision or instruction, you may face a scathing review from your local Environmental Health Officer. At CaterSafe, we know how important it is for businesses to have excellent health, hygiene and safety standards. With this in mind, CaterSafe provides a range of food hygiene courses Kent.

The benefits of food hygiene courses Kent

At CaterSafe, we offer training for food businesses in Kent as well as across the UK. We provide both onsite and offsite training as well as e-learning courses for complete food safety coverage for all team members and food situations. There are many benefits to having sufficient food hygiene training which includes;


Training can help staff to understand the necessary legislation which can help to improve your compliance. This can help to increase your rating by inspections too.

Image boosting

Customers will look out for good and bad food hygiene practices. If customers are not happy that your business operates safely and cleanly, then it can damage your reputation. Regular training and refresher training can help to reiterate the importance of good food hygiene practice and make sure customers are happy that you prioritise their safety.

Reduce food wastage

Following the right food hygiene principles can help staff to be more aware of food storage and handling. Our training courses will also highlight pest control. All of which can help your business to minimise wastage which can save your business money.

Improve profits with food hygiene courses Kent

CaterSafe offers a range of food hygiene courses Kent and across the UK. Our courses can help to improve efficiency, provide practical tips and assure best practice approaches. All of which can reduce operational costs, improve your reputation and increase profits. Book your food hygiene course with our expert trainers by calling 01233 822 201.

, ,

Food Safety Training Ashford, Kent

Food Safety Training Ashford, Kent

For any worker that handles food, Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 applies. This is a legal requirement to make sure that food handlers have training or supervision when relating to food hygiene matters. To lower the risk of potential food hygiene hazards occurring, training is essential. At CaterSafe, we offer food safety training Ashford, Kent as well as across the county.

What food safety training does my business need?

The Food Regulations 2006 recommend training for food businesses. However, there is no requirement for specific training or a particular course. This means that your business can tailor the courses that you need to suit all members of your team.

Firstly, your food preparation team are likely to require in-depth knowledge to make sure that food is safe for consumption. A course that covers personal and premises hygiene is vital. Further understanding of pest control, food contamination and allergens are also helpful. These can help to reduce the risk of foodborne illness and allergic reactions.

For those who work in the front of house sector, who sell food but do not prepare any, we offer a food safety for retail. This course includes the practical measures that staff can implement in their daily work. All of which can help to minimise the severity of potential hazards. This course covers aspects such as waste management and how to safely hand food.

Food manufacturers also need adequate food safety training. CaterSafe offers a Level One Award in Food Safety for Manufacturing. This food safety training Ashford, Kent is delivered onsite or offsite to suit your needs. The course is suitable for those in low and high-risk food production.

Book your food safety training Ashford, Kent

Based in Ashford, Kent, we can provide training courses to business in Kent and across the UK. We offer courses in your business as well as handy e-learning online training, for your staff to take at their leisure. Get in touch to discuss your training requirements with our team and find the perfect course by calling 01233 822201.

, , ,

Food Safety Courses Kent

food safety courses Kent

If your organisation is in the food industry, then there are many requirements you have to follow. Food hygiene is critical, and all food businesses have a responsibility to make sure that food is safe for consumption. Your Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan (HACCP) will highlight your responsibilities for food safety. One area in the HACCP plan may be adequate training. At CaterSafe, we offer a range of food safety courses Kent to keep your food business safe and compliant.

Our food safety courses Kent

One of the easiest ways for employee learning is through e-learning. E-learning can be accessed anywhere at any time for complete convenience. CaterSafe offer a variety of detailed e-learning courses such as;

Level 1 Food Safety – This is the ideal induction course for new employees entering your food business. It covers the basic principles of hygiene, risks and hazards in a food setting. For those with no prior knowledge, this course is essential.

Food Allergen Awareness – In the UK, legislation controls 14 major allergens. This course is essential for a greater understanding of food ingredients, allergies and intolerances. As well as the detailed theory, the course also covers practical steps that your business can adopt today.

Level 2 Food Safety in Retail –  Food safety is not just essential in manufacturing and catering environments. There are many potential food hazards where food is sold, whether in shops, restaurants, hospitals or school. Consequently, this detailed course ensures thorough knowledge of the potential dangers in a retail setting.

Discover food safety courses Kent

As well as offering e-learning courses, CaterSafe also provides on and off-site courses with professional trainers. We can, therefore, tailor courses to fit your precise food safety needs. Our courses cover food safety in a variety of settings including, catering, logistics and retail. To find out which course is best for your needs, contact the CaterSafe training team on 01233 822 201.


Edwin Chadwick – a man to whom much is owed!

In Britain today, we enjoy a high standard of living compared to times past.  Our hygiene regulations are strict, meaning cases of food borne illness and diseases are relatively rare, and our sanitation systems are extremely efficient and well controlled.  However, it wasn’t always like this and that is down to a few individuals in history who campaigned tirelessly for social reform.

Edwin Chadwick was one of those tireless campaigners.  He was born near Manchester in 1800 and lived in the North until moving to London in 1810.  It was a time in the history of this nation when industry and manufacturing were booming and jobs for factory workers were plentiful.   People would move in droves to towns where factories were hiring and business owners would provide housing for their employees but, it was housing that was cheap and which had very poor or no sanitation.  It was also a time when there were serious health epidemics, some of the most notable being the first great cholera epidemic in 1830-31 and typhoid epidemics in big cities in 1837 and 1838.

During this time, Edwin Chadwick had studied the law and had worked his way by merit into an advisory role within government.  He had inherited his father’s journalistic skills and was highly regarded as a researcher and writer.  Chadwick was commissioned to assist with the enquiry into the Poor Laws in 1832 and it was through his research that he started to uncover the link between poor sanitation and low life expectancy.

In 1842, he published what was arguably the most important work of his career, The Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population in Great Britain.   This report showed, through careful research and substantiated examples, that there was a direct correlation between the poor living conditions and sanitation of the working population and their short life expectancy and susceptibility to disease.

Chadwick had proved something that was undeniable and started something that was unstoppable.  His report led the way for the Public Health Act of 1948 and set off a shift in thinking that the government had a responsibility in ensuring suitable sanitation systems for all.  He was appointed as Commissioner for the Board of Health which set out to start implementing some of the recommendations of Chadwick’s report.

This was just the beginning of understanding how disease spread and the need for effective sanitation.  Chadwick himself subscribed to the miasma theory, which supposed that disease was spread through bad smells in the air.  At the time, this was widely believed to be the cause, although the germ theory quickly became the accepted position in the mid-1800s as understanding increased.  The measures Chadwick proposed and applied, although he held to the miasma theory, undoubtedly contributed to the improvement of living conditions.  Removing the bad smells would often mean that the bacteria, the actual cause of disease, were also removed, thus providing a cleaner and more sanitised living environment.

Chadwick had some unpopular political views on public health and centralised administration and, ultimately, this led to him being removed from the Board of Public Health but he continued to campaign for cleaner living conditions and for separate pipes for clean water and sewage removal in every household.  His conviction was so strong that he even left £47,000 in his will for the purpose of further advances in sanitation and education of the population in such matters.

Chadwick always held to the miasma theory and was viewed by some as difficult and arrogant but his place in history is secure and it seems the tide of negative opinion towards him changed as he was awarded a knighthood in 1889 for his services to public health, just one year before he died.

Whether it is true that he was arrogant or difficult, he is truly a man to whom much is owed.  His research and unstinting belief in the importance of improving sanitation is what first set us on the road to the high standard of living conditions we currently enjoy.  The degree of knowledge about the spread of disease and contamination that we now know is due in no small part to this man, Edwin Chadwick, who started a revolution in public health and understanding that continues to this day.

, ,

Make sure your Summer al fresco celebration doesn’t end inside…with food poisoning!

Spring has had its day and we’ve passed the first official day of summer, the solstice of 21st June, and with that milestone comes the season for al fresco eating, so beloved by the British people. Picnic baskets will have been dusted off and plastic plates and mugs dug out from the back of the cupboard.

It is worth mentioning that cases of food poisoning in the UK rise significantly over the summer months! Most people love a good picnic but, away from our fridges and freezers and clean running water, it’s wise to be extra mindful of food safety risks and helpful to have some guidelines to follow to get the most out of your al fresco dining experience.

When you’re getting ready – the first steps:

• When preparing the food at home, make sure usual hygiene procedures are followed; wash your hands, keep cooked and raw meat separate to avoid cross contamination and pack the food up separately in airtight containers or keep individual items covered in foil or clingfilm

• If it’s the first time you’re venturing out this summer, give all those implements and containers that have been lurking in the dark corners of your cupboards a thorough clean

When you’re ready to pack up and go:

• Use a cool bag for cold items: a good cool bag lined with ice blocks or frozen gel packs will keep your food cool for a good 2-3 hours. Keeping the food at a low temperature, similar to that of your fridge at home (5°C), will prevent any bacteria from multiplying. It’s best to leave packing the cool bag until just before leaving home so that the food is stored straight from the fridge and is as cold as possible.

• Like you would when stacking your fridge at home, keep any raw meat that you might intend to cook completely separate from other food and place it at the bottom of the cool bag so that there is no danger of any leakage onto other foods.

• Make sure all items are separately contained or wrapped so that you avoid cross contamination.

• If you’re really pushing the boat out and taking hot food, the safest way to transport it is in a thermos box to ensure it retains its temperature. Hot food should be held above 63°C.

• Keep the cool bag in the coolest place possible when in transit, somewhere shady away from the glare of the sun.

When you’re ready to serve up and eat:

• Clean or wash your hands. If there’s a facility for washing, great, but if not, take some anti-bacterial gel with you to ensure you rid your hands of any bacteria you might have picked up running your hands through long grass or making sandcastles.

• Only serve up what you’re intending to eat. Keep the rest in the cool bag until you’re ready for it. In hot weather, food should not be left out for more than a maximum of one hour.

• Keep raw foods and cooked/ready to eat foods strictly separate.

• Make sure you cook any raw meat thoroughly, until the juices run clear and there is no pink left. Use a clean knife to cut into the meat to check the colour and juices if you need to.

• Keep any cooking utensils or implements used in preparing food separate and wrapped up to prevent any bugs or animals touching them and contaminating them.

• Avoid putting food onto unclean surfaces such as the ground, picnic tables etc. Bring plates or even a tablecloth from home if you can.

When you’re ready to come home:

• If the ice packs in the cool bag are still cold and there is leftover food, it should be fine to take home, refrigerate and re-use, – provided it has not been left out but the safest rule is; if in doubt, chuck it out!

Most of all, enjoy it while it lasts and make the most of the sunshine whenever you can because, in this country, you never know when you’ll see it again!

, ,

What is Clostridium Botulinum?

Clostridium Botulinum

For those of us born before the technological age, our childhoods would probably have involved playing outside for much of the time, making our own entertainment.  For many, playing in the mud and dirt was a great pastime.  You might be one of those that made mud pies and got absolutely filthy, to the despair of your parents.  Some children actually proceeded to tuck into said mud pies but have turned out just fine.  Little did we know, however, that something pretty sinister was lurking in the very same soil from which we were making our mud pies.

Sources, Causes and Symptoms

Clostridium botulinum is bacteria which is present in untreated water, soil and dust all over the world and can also be found on a number of food items, for example, anything which has been grown in soil may have had contact with the bacteria.  The bacteria in its natural state is not harmful but, as an ‘obligate anaerobe’, if it is deprived of oxygen, its spores start to produce toxins which can, in very rare cases, be fatal.  It is no exaggeration to say that it is probably the most dangerous of food borne illnesses that can be contracted.  The toxins attack the nervous system, disabling the neurotransmitters which carry instructions from the brain to our muscles, thus causing paralysis.  Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, double vision, drooping eyelids and paralysis amongst others.  It can be treated with antitoxins which prevent the toxins from travelling round the body so an immediate visit to the doctor or hospital is absolutely imperative.

Foodborne botulism is generally contracted from canned foods which have not been processed correctly at source.  In food in canned form, the bacteria are deprived of oxygen and toxins develop so that, when consumed, the illness strikes.  In the UK, hygiene regulations are very strict so food being processed incorrectly is a real rarity.  Canned food is subject to intense heating and sterilisation processes which should eradicate any risk.

Clostridium Botulinum in Children

Infant botulism is the most frequent form of the illness and occurs mostly in babies under the age of 6 months, although it tends to occur through botulinum spores releasing the toxins once ingested, rather than pre-developed toxins in foods.  At this age, their bodies have not yet developed to deal with botulinum in bacteria form, as adults’ immune systems have.  For adults, it is the pre-developed toxins that pose the risk.


It should be noted that cases of botulism are very scarce but there are measures you can take to ensure avoiding contact with these potentially deadly toxins.  Never eat food from a can which is bulging or leaking, or which shoots out unnaturally when being opened, as it could be contaminated.  Heat food which comes from cans properly.  The World Health Organisation states that, ‘the toxin produced by bacteria growing out of the spores under anaerobic conditions is destroyed by boiling (for example, at internal temperature greater than 85 °C for 5 minutes or longer)’.  Never give honey to children under 1 year old as this is a common cause of infant botulism.  If you are going to can food at home, make sure you find out how to do it properly so that you can follow the strictest hygiene procedures.  Always put leftover and cooked food in the refrigerator, as low temperatures help to prevent the formation of toxins.  Decant any leftovers from cans into other containers and refrigerate.  Simple measures which are easy to follow and which could make all the difference.


On a final note, it’s not all bad news.  The botulinum bacteria is the main ingredient used in botox, where the skin is effectively ‘paralysed’ to reduce the appearance of wrinkles so, for those who seek the elixir of youth, the botulinum bacteria is one of the finds of the modern age!


, , ,

The Training of Food Handlers

Food Hygiene Courses In Kent

The Training of Food Handlers

By law, those responsible for running a food business must ensure that food handlers receive food safety training which is ‘commensurate’ to their level of responsibility. In other words, the level of training that each food handler receives should be appropriate for their individual job role and work activities. This basically means that food business operators are required to evaluate the risks associated with the different job functions their food handling staff perform and then provide them with the appropriate food safety training.

Failure by food business owners to follow high standards of food safety can easily cause food to become defiled or contaminated, resulting in potentially fatal consequences for the business’ customers and financial disaster for the business’ owner.

The Benefits for Employers

Whilst the law does not demand that all employees go through a formal or an accredited food safety training programme, it would be very inadvisable to not do so. Based on our experience and dialogue with food business operators from a wide range of sizes and sectors within the food industry, the message is that these recognised courses are inclined to be more rigorous and the outcome in most cases tends to be a lot better; promoting a greater level of work engagement from staff and an increased commitment to their job requirements and areas of responsibility.
Employers should not see training as an optional extra or just as something to ‘get done’ to ‘tick’ the proverbial ‘box’. Neither should it be viewed as something to do to placate auditors or enforcement officers. But rather, as something positive which can have a direct effect on peace of mind and the overall profitability and reputation of the business.

The Benefits for Employees

As well as complying with the law, the main benefit of investing in training is ensuring that staff members are equipped to carry out their jobs competently, safely and confidently. It also ensures that standards across the establishment remain high and that consistency is maintained. As well as enabling employees to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date, staff training also has a direct impact on morale and productivity. For example, where staff members recognize that the business owners value their contribution because they have invested in training and development, this will generally show in greater commitment and longevity, and retaining skilled staff is key to any successful business. Just on a practical level, trained staff who are motivated to come to work because they feel valued is what all potentially successful businesses need.

Training does not stand alone

Training does not stand alone nor is it a panacea against food poisoning, mal-practice or contamination. Remember that knowledge without application is effectively useless. It is imperative that knowledge gained from training is applied. It is worth noting that in a lot of food poisoning outbreaks, ignorance is not always responsible.
Training should be underpinned by effective supervision, and is something that is not a ‘once for all’ event. Refresher training and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) should be carried out regularly to ensure that skills and knowledge are kept up-to-date.
Want a successful food business?
Start by investing in staff training!

CaterSafe can deliver a range of on-site and off-site courses by professional trainers, ensuring that you and your staff comply with the law and develop skills and knowledge to enhance your business.
For more details, please contact a member of our training team.

, ,

Keeping Food Pests out of your Food Business!

A few weeks ago, ASDA were fined £300,000 for food safety breaches, but specifically for the abysmal lack of pest control, after dead mice and flies were discovered in the aisles of one of their home delivery depots which distributes food to online shoppers across London and Essex.

All food businesses are susceptible to pest infestations and pest harbourage and any pest infestation is a very serious problem, which does not just affect the profitability of your business – but which has potentially serious financial, moral and legal ramifications. It is worth noting that food premises have been closed down by environmental health officers due to an infestation of, or failure to control, pests.

Therefore it is absolutely vital to ensure that your food business has adequate pest-proofing in place and that products are safeguarded from contamination and defilement from pests.

Simply put, a food pest is any animal, insect or bird that can contaminate food, both physically (from fur, droppings or feathers) and microbiologically. As well as damage to products, food pests such as cockroaches and rodents carry a number of harmful diseases, which can be transmitted in various ways. For example by direct contact, scratches, or ingesting food or drink contaminated by them. Moreover, a number of rats carry bacteria called Leptospirosis (which can develop into Weil’s disease) which if left untreated in humans can kill.

It is therefore imperative that food pests are kept out!

Remember, it is much easier and simpler to stop pests from entering in the first place, than to deal with an infestation once it’s taken hold. As with most problems, prevention in the first instance is better than the cure. It is therefore important to make sure that appropriate controls are put in place to avoid an infestation of food pests.


Here are some very basic control measures to observe:

  • Firstly, always ensure you have an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system in place. This involves monitoring, prevention and control. This would normally be done in conjunction with a competent person / professional pest control contractor.
  • Make sure all windows in food rooms and food areas are ‘fly screened’.
  • Always check deliveries for signs of pests or pest activity. Reject deliveries if you have any evidence of contamination or harbourage.
  • Always store delivered goods in pest-proof containers and always off the floor.
  • Make sure the premises are well maintained and designed in such a way as to prevent entry of food pests.
  • Ensure that no ‘daylight’ can be seen below or around external doors.


Here is a video from the Food Standards Agency aimed at small food businesses:

The importance of effective handwashing

effective hand washing

Washing Your Hands Effectively

It is absolutely imperative that food handlers wash their hand frequently throughout the working day. This is one of the most simple, yet absolutely essential principles of food safety. There can potentially be millions of bacteria on your hands at any one time! Bacteria are measured in micrometres (µm). There are 1000 µm in 1 millimetre (mm). The average spherical bacterium measures on average around 1µm in diameter. Therefore, bacteria are far too small to be seen by the naked eye. Some of these are harmful (pathogens) and when they are transferred onto food, they can cause food poisoning.

Bacteria, however, can be eliminated with a simple an effective hand washing technique:

  1. Wet hands thoroughly
  2. Use liquid soap
  3. Rub hands vigorously – especially the nails, fingertips and thumbs (it is the vigour in handwashing which is effective (this should take at least 40 seconds – 1 minute)
  4. Rinse hands thoroughly
  5. Dry hands completely using a paper towel
  6. Turn the tap off using the paper towel!
  7. Bin the towel!

Handwashing:  – when to wash your hands – keeping your hands clean and the food safe!

Before entering a food room or handling food

After using the toilet

After taking a break, eating or smoking

After handling raw food

Before handling cooked, ready-to-eat food

After handling a dressing or changing a waterproof plaster

After handling boxes and food packaging

After handling waste or refuse

After cleaning or using cleaning chemicals

After coughing, sneezing or touching any other part of your body

After dealing with someone who is ill

After handling known allergens

Whilst such an obvious point to make, nevertheless, it is a very important one: Get into the habit of washing your hands correctly, often and always. Knowledge of hand hygiene and handwashing per se, without practice, is useless and at worst, dangerous! It’s a sad fact that many cases of food poisoning could have been avoided if the food handlers involved would have simply washed their hands!

, ,

10 tips for an Effective Food Safety Audit

Food Safety audit

How To Do An Effective Food Safety Audit

There are many benefits of carrying out regular audits, which include; honest self-assessment, giving feedback to management and identifying whether the systems, processes and procedures in place are working and meet the required objectives.  Audits should be proactive rather than reactive, and can identify potential future problems before they occur. Whether you are responsible for internal audits of your food premises, a third party auditor, or verifying HACCP and Food Safety Management Systems, here are some practical tips for carrying out an effective audit.

  1. Identify and ensure the competency of the auditor. The auditor / inspector should be highly knowledgeable and competent in food safety and HACCP (or the specific area which is to be audited). The auditor must be in full agreement about what is to be covered and the standards and set criteria thereof. This applies to internal as well as external audits.
  1. Before carrying out an audit it is essential to plan ahead! It has been said many times: “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Planning is vital to a successful and effective audit. As well as establishing the clear aims and objectives of the inspection, planning should take into account practical things like; the size and complexity of the business, the amount of travelling involved, site restrictions (such as opening times etc.), level of in-house expertise and any language barriers of staff.
  1. Communication is an integral part of carrying out an audit. It is important that the auditor communicates clearly and concisely. Be polite, affable, and professional. Don’t be overly familiar or effusive, but at the same time do not be too serious or austere. When verbally questioning staff and auditees make use of open, leading, and sympathetic questioning techniques. A good auditor will not just check, but will watch, listen, and ask questions. When talking to employees do not become side-tracked or distracted. While some ‘small talk’ is acceptable and sometimes necessary, always stick to the point.
  1. The auditor should be impartial, fair and objective, and act with integrity.
  1. Be methodical and systematic. Carry out the audit in a coherent manner. For example, the auditor should go through what they are auditing in a logical order from the beginning to the end. It’s more than merely being guided through mechanically by the audit checklist! It’s really about linking things together and checking the process meets the procedure, and the corresponding documentation. Always take notes as you go, whether written or on a smartphone, iPad or tablet.
  1. The auditor should take photographs as and when necessary – but only of what is relevant to the audit. What can’t speak can’t lie! Again, best on a smaller device such as an iPad or smartphone, rather than a large camera. We tend to use the iPhone 6s, which are discreet and have a good built in camera.
  1. If an audit is carried out at a busy time – don’t get in the way and definitely do not spend time interviewing people. Most of the time should be spent observing working practices. Also, do not stay longer than necessary. As soon as the objectives have been met you should depart. On the other hand, never leave until you have made sufficient judgement and your outcomes have been achieved.
  1. It is fundamental that auditors keep up to date with latest industry trends, scientific and epidemiological research and information. For example, within the context of a food business, the threat of Campylobacter in raw chicken is a greater problem today than salmonella. Advice may change as understanding increases.
  1. Always write up the audit report in a timely manner. This should be as close to the event as possible. Ensure that you write concisely and clearly. Avoid emotive or ‘flowery’ language. Write as dispassionately as possible. Opinions are fine, as long as they can be substantiated and are pertinent; however, reports should be written on fact and backed up by quantifiable and empirical evidence. Give clear recommendations and prioritised timescales which are practical, measurable, and achievable. Actions which need addressing immediately or within a few days should be dealt with and remedied at the time of visit, following verbal advice. However, it’s still good practice to record this in your report.
  1. When giving recommendations, it is very important that the auditor clearly distinguishes between recommendations based on best practice and legal requirements. Inexperienced auditors often get the two confused!

To learn more about being an effective auditor, contact us , and we’ll also let you have details of the next Level 3 Auditing and Inspection Skills training course that we are running in your area.


Listeria Monocytogenes

Illustration depicting a sign with a Listeria concept.

Why is Listeria Monocytogenes Such a Big Deal?

Listeria is a bacterium found in soil, plants, and water, and causes a serious infection known as Listeriosis – a disease that has severe complications that often requires hospitalization. The bacteria can be found in animals like cattle, sheep and goats, and contact with an infected animal, or consumption of contaminated meat, can cause a serious infection in humans.

The Listeria bacteria is common in foods such as smoked fish, meats and cheeses and can also be found in in raw vegetables. Whilst the bacteria can be destroyed by cooking raw meat at temperatures higher than 65 °C., unlike some other types of bacteria, Listeria tend to multiply in cooler temperatures, with the potential for contamination of cooked food that has been packaged – which is why safe food handling should be taken very seriously.

Once the Listeria Monocytogenes bacteria enter the human body it can cause symptoms such as mild flu, fever and gastroenteritis. Most reported cases have been due to consumption of contaminated foods.

Food Handlers need to understand that there is a risk of infection when foods, especially meats, are not cooked properly. High risk food sectors must fully adhere to Food Standards Agency guidelines when processing food that is prone to Listeria contamination and ensure that workers receive rigorous food safety training with constant qualified supervision.

By ensuring very high standards of food hygiene the potential hazard posed by Listeria can be significantly reduced, and this means ensuring there is a properly documented HACCP policy in place with trained and supervised staff.

Prevention is always better than cure so high risk foods should always be avoided by pregnant women, young children, the sick and elderly, and especially those with weakened immune systems as Listeria spreads from cell to cell, attacking the host’s immune system. It has been treated successfully with antibiotics such as penicillin.


Hand Hygiene

Food Poisoning

Hand Hygiene: Ignaz Semmelweis – A Man of his TimeIgnaz Semmelweis

In today’s modern medical world, it is required practice for surgeons to thoroughly wash their hands (referred to as scrubbing) before undertaking an operation. Many years ago, in the 1840s, a Hungarian physician by the name of Ignaz Semmelweis was criticized for suggesting that there was a connection between the poor hand hygiene of physicians and maternal deaths and neonatal mortality. Here’s what happened:

In 1846, a young Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis reported for his new job as head of the maternity clinic at the General Hospital in Vienna. Semmelweis became interested in finding out why many new mothers and their babies were dying from puerperal fever or childbed fever. So he embarked on a process of collecting crucial data which would help him find out the possible cause of the deaths.

At the beginning there seemed to be no obvious connection to the deaths, but later on as Semmelweis was examining the body of a colleague who had died, he realized that that colleague had died of childbed fever. This made him realize that the fever didn’t just affect mothers and newborn babies. Semmelweis arrived at the conclusion that the death of his colleague (a pathologist) must have resulted from cadaver contamination when the pathologist was working on an autopsy.

Semmelweis made it a requirement for his medical staff to wash their hands and instruments with a chlorine solution. At the time, he did not know anything about germs, but he knew that the best way to get rid of the smell of the cadaverous particles was to use chlorine. After this directive, the rate of childbed fever fell. However, the other doctors were not happy with Semmelweis. His directive made it look as if they were the ones passing on childbed fever to the mothers in the maternity clinic, an image the doctors were not ready to accept. Consequently, Semmelweis’ directives were resisted and he eventually lost his job. During the following years, Semmelweis suffered from mental illness and was committed to an asylum, where he died at the early age of 47.

Semmelweis was indeed a man of his time, a physician who practiced in an age where physician-scientists were beginning to look at illnesses from an anatomy point of view, unlike previously when illnesses were said to be caused by evil spirits. Today, hand-washing remains one of the most critical tools of public health. Hand hygiene is known to combat the spread of diseases and should always be practiced by food handlers.


Using Cleaning Cloths Safely and Hygienically.

Cleaning Cloth

Using Cleaning Cloths Safely and Hygienically.

cleaning cloths

In response to a frequent question we receive regarding the use of dish cloths for cleaning and disinfection in the kitchen, here are some of our thoughts on the subject, in the context of food and food safety.

Cleaning cloths, improperly used, have the potential to be the cause of cross-contamination; spreading food borne pathogens around kitchens and food rooms. Studies have recognised that cloths used in both domestic and commercial kitchens can harbour very high levels of pathogenic bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella. Combine this with food handlers who have an inadequate level of food hygiene knowledge, and you have a food poisoning disaster just waiting to happen!

It’s important to note that there’s no point in having segregated areas, surfaces and equipment for food production and preparation if all surfaces and equipment end up being cleaned with the same cloth.  Damp dish cloths, ingrained with grease and food residue, left lying around for hours on end, provide the optimum environment for the growth of bacteria. The bacteria is then spread around causing contamination each time the cloth is used; sometimes a single cloth can be used multiple times by several different food handlers, further exacerbating the danger and therefore exposing many more people to food poisoning.

The number seven is widely acknowledged to be the complete number, so here are seven very straightforward safety tips to prevent cross-contamination when using cleaning cloths.

  1. We would recommend when practicable, using single-use, disposable cloths. This method is always preferable; as it means that the cloth (along with any pathogens) can be disposed of immediately after cleaning; reducing the risk of contamination. In some instances, this could mean replacing traditional cloths with a blue paper towel, but only if the paper is sufficiently durable to cope with the task in hand.
  2. Where possible, colour-code your cleaning cloths. There is a wide variety of different coloured cleaning cloths on the market today, which can be purchased inexpensively. If it’s not practical to have a full set of colours, it can be as simple as having blue ‘J Cloths’ for the cooked, ready-to-eat areas of production in your kitchen, and red cloths for the raw areas.
  3. It’s imperative that cloths are replaced regularly, but especially when they start to tear or become damaged.
  4. Ensure cleaning cloths are thoroughly washed after each use. Never use the same cloth for cleaning between different tasks, especially between raw and cooked areas!
  5. Subsequent to washing, best practice would be to fully immerse the cloth in hot water above 82°c for several minutes, (to disinfect). All cleaning cloths should be laundered daily either in a washing machine on a boil wash and/or in a dishwasher, and always left to thoroughly air dry before reusing.
  6. Provide a clearly designated receptacle in the kitchen for all dirty cloths. This is a practical measure you can take to prevent them from being reused before they have been washed. Likewise, make sure that all clean cloths are stored separately and hygienically away from food.
  7. Ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh cloths at the start of each working day so that food handlers are not tempted to keep reusing soiled cloths.

Other important points to consider

Make sure that your cleaning procedures and cleaning schedules are up-to-date, and that cleaning procedures are written down. The policy on cleaning cloths should be clearly documented on the schedule, along with cleaning methods and the approved chemicals which are to be used. When using cleaning chemicals, it is absolutely essential that the manufacturer’s instructions are followed at all times. This includes dilution rates and the required contact time. It’s also a very good idea to check that your disinfectants and sanitisers meet the required standards, as many don’t! The Food Standards Agency state in their E. coli O157 Cross-contamination Factsheet – Caterers (2014) that “…Disinfectants and sanitisers must at least meet the requirements of one of the following standards: BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697; or other standards that meet the same conditions and requirements.”

Cleaning and disinfection must be carried out on all hand and food-contact surfaces and equipment. Effective cleaning precedes effective disinfection, disinfection won’t work on visibly soiled surfaces; one follows the other. Another obvious point to make is never to spray cleaning chemicals around open food, as this could easily result in chemically contaminating your products, but more seriously, damaging the health of those people who go on to consume the food.

Finally, and very importantly, managers and supervisors must clearly communicate standards to food handlers, and ensure this is underpinned by ongoing and effective supervision. Managers can massively help implement standards and maintain a good food safety culture if they lead by example and put into practice ‘what they preach’. Hypocrisy is a big turn-off. A manager who is sloppy will often find that their staff are too – and in all probability, to a greater degree. This principle applies and extends into all areas of food safety.