Running a food business from home- your questions answered.

Table of Contents

Do you have a passion for cooking and want to start your own food business from home? Do you want to run a cake business or sell wedding cakes? Many entrepreneurs get their start this way, but there can be a lot of questions about what is allowed and how to go about setting up such a business. Here, I will answer some of the most common questions I get asked as an EHO about running a food business from home. 

Can I sell food from my own home?

If you’ve ever dreamed of running a food business such as a cake business, from the comfort of your own home, it may seem like an impossible task. But the truth is, it is possible! With a bit of planning and preparation, you can turn your baking dreams into reality.

Make sure you have done the following:

  • registered as a food business with your local authority
  • ensured you are complying with food safety laws. We will look at how you can do this in more detail below.
  • registered as a self-employed sole trader with HMRC. Alternatively, you may want to set up a limited company. You can find a step-by-step guide here on how to set up a limited company.
  • put in place public liability insurance and product liability insurance 
  • put in place employer’s liability insurance (if you have any employees)
  • informed your landlord or mortgage lender. Some landlords or mortgage lenders require you to ask permission to run your home-based food business

Once these steps have been completed, you should be able to start trading. Of course, there are other considerations such as developing recipes, packaging materials, marketing and pricing which will help make your business successful but these are all things you can work on gradually as you build up your customer base.

So if you’ve been thinking about starting up a baking business from home, then why not take the first step today? Read on to find out how to get prepared for your food hygiene inspection, what to expect and most importantly how to get that 5-star rating!

Register your premises

Registering your premises with the local authority’s environmental health service is an important step when starting a food business from home. You must do this at least 28 days before you start trading. This registration process is free and it can’t be refused. You can register your business here.

A food safety officer or EHO will contact you to arrange an appointment to come to your home and carry out a food hygiene inspection to make sure you are meeting the legal requirements. Once you’ve registered you can start trading, you do not have to wait for the officer to visit. Most local authorities are short staffed so do not be surprised if you have to wait many months for your inspection.

Taking the time to register your premises is a legal requirement, so don’t forget to do it at least 28 days before you start trading!

Keep in mind that the tips listed in this article are just a guide – it’s always best to get advice from your local environmental health department if you have any specific questions or concerns.

What is a home kitchen inspection?

A home kitchen inspection is a thorough inspection of your home kitchen that is conducted by an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) or food safety officer from your local authority. The purpose is to assess whether you are carrying out food operations in a safe and legal manner. The inspection covers three main areas: how hygienically you handle food, your food safety management procedures, and the physical condition of the premises.

During the inspection, the officer will check things like general cleanliness, temperature control, pest control measures, food storage practices, food safety management and other areas related to food safety. The officer will also look for any potential hazards that could put your customers at risk.

In some cases, the EHO may require you to make changes or take steps to improve safety measures. If you pass the inspection with flying colours, providing you maintain these standards, then you can rest assured knowing that your business is operating safely! 

After your food hygiene inspection, you will receive your food hygiene rating. This can range from 0 (urgent improvement necessary) to 5 (hygiene standards very good). You can learn more about food hygiene ratings here.

How to prepare for a food hygiene inspection of your home kitchen

A home kitchen food hygiene inspection is an important part of running a safe and compliant home-based food business. To ensure you’re ready for the inspection there are some key steps you should take beforehand.

The first step is to make sure your kitchen is clean, hygienic, and free from any potential hazards or risks. This includes checking that all surfaces and equipment have been properly cleaned and sanitised and that all foods are stored correctly. If you have pets, make sure you keep them out of the kitchen.

You should also make sure your food safety management system (or SFBB pack) is up to date – this means having a written record of how you handle different types of foods, procedures for storing food correctly, records of when foods were cooked or prepared, as well as training records for anyone handling food in your business.

Finally, it’s important to be prepared for the inspection itself – make sure you have copies of any relevant documents and certificates on hand so they can be easily accessed by the inspector. Following these steps will help ensure you are confident and as prepared as possible.

Want a checklist to ensure you are prepared for your inspection? Download one for free here.

What things will the officer look at during an inspection?

During your food hygiene inspection, the EHO will consider three broad areas:

Do you handle food in a hygienic way?

If you are not preparing food at the time of your inspection (which is my experience of inspecting food businesses that operate from home)then the officer will ask you questions about how you ensure food safety when preparing food for your business.

This does not need to be daunting. Imagine speaking to a friend or a customer and talking them through the steps of preparing your food and telling them how you do this safely. You may find it helpful to write these steps down.

The officer may want to know things such as:

  • where do you buy your ingredients from? Do you use reputable suppliers? It can help to have copies of invoices or receipts to show where you get your ingredients from.
  • how do you store foods in your fridges/ freezers including are raw foods stored away from cooked/ ready-to-eat foods, are foods covered, labelled and in date?
  • are fridges and freezers operating at safe temperatures? By law, food in fridges should be below 8°C and it is recommended that freezers operate at -18°C or colder.
  • how do you ensure personal hygiene? For example, do you wear aprons, keep your hair tied up, wear a hat or hairnet and wash your hands regularly? What do you do if you are ill?
  • how do you manage allergens in your business?

Is your kitchen clean and in good condition?

The officer will not look at your whole house. They will just want to see areas where you store or prepare food for your business.

In these areas, they may look at walls, floors, ceilings, windows, doors, work surfaces and equipment to check if they are clean and maintained in a good condition. They will also check to make sure there are no signs of pests and that you have suitable hand-washing facilities and sinks for washing food and equipment. Read on to learn more about what sinks and hand-washing facilities you need.

Do you have a documented food safety management system in place?

If a business doesn’t have a documented food safety management system in place, it will struggle to get a food hygiene rating of more than 1 out of 5.

A food safety management system needs to set out how you will manage food safety in your business. Many home food businesses use the Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) pack for caterers. This is free to download here.

If you are going to use SFBB make sure you complete all parts that are relevant to your business. It is not enough to simply print or download the pack. You must complete it!

Larger businesses or those doing some unusual processes may need to have a bespoke food safety management system in place. This will need to be produced by someone who is competent and trained in food safety and HACCP.

The officer will also want to see evidence of food hygiene training. The easiest way to demonstrate this is with a food hygiene certificate.

How often are home kitchen food hygiene inspections?

Home kitchen food hygiene inspections are an important part of running a food business from home. The frequency of inspections will be determined by your business’ “risk rating”. The officer will determine the risk rating following your inspection. It will be based on the types of foods you sell, the methods you use to make these foods, whether you serve vulnerable groups (i.e. very young children or elderly people) and how well you are complying with the law. Inspection frequencies range from roughly every 6 months to 2 years. For a business making cakes at home where they are complying with food safety laws, in general, that can expect to be inspected no more than every 2 years.

What washing facilities do I need?

I hear this question a lot. The law requires that you have “adequate facilities for ensuring personal hygiene”. This means a sink just for washing hands that is separate from the one you might use for washing utensils and equipment. How can this be achieved in your home kitchen? If the foods you are preparing are considered to be fairly low risk (i.e. cakes) then the officer may be lenient about what is required.

There are a few scenarios that could be considered acceptable:

  • If you have a double or 1.5 sink you may be able to designate one half for hand washing during the periods when you are preparing food for your business. For example, you should clean and disinfect it before use and then provide liquid hand soap and paper towels. The other half can be used for washing equipment.
  • If you have a utility room next to your kitchen that has a sink in it you could use the sink in there in addition to the sink in your kitchen.
  • You could set up a wash hand basin ‘station’ during the times you are preparing food for your business. This would consist of a bowl filled with warm water, accompanied by soap and paper towels. You would need to make sure you change this water regularly.
  • If you only have one sink (and no other options), you must ensure you clean and disinfect the sink (including the taps) and the surrounding area before using it to wash your hands. If you need to wash utensils in the sink, you must again ensure it is cleaned and disinfected before and after.

It is advisable to check with your local authority or the officer before they come to do your inspection to ensure that what you are proposing will be acceptable to them. They will be best placed to advise on your specific scenario. I would not advise waiting until your inspection as this could affect your food hygiene rating, as the officer has to score based on what they find on the day!

Do I need a specific sanitiser to clean food preparation surfaces?

You will need to make sure your sanitiser complies with the relevant British Standards. Either, BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697. This is something the officer will check, so make sure you check before they do! Most compliant sanitisers will show either of these British Standards on the front or the back of the label. If you are trying to find a sanitiser that complies, there is a helpful list here.

What about allergens?

When it comes to allergens, it’s essential that you give clear information to your customers about what’s in the food you’re preparing. If you are taking orders from customers in advance make sure you ask them about any allergens or intolerances. You will need to make sure you give them very clear information about any allergens that may be in your products and also about any potential risk of cross-contamination that could occur in your kitchen. 

You should make sure you have accurate and up-to-date information about the allergens within each of the ingredients you use.

The Food Standards Agency provides further information on managing allergens which you can read here.

They also offer a free online allergy training course here which may help with increasing your allergen awareness.

Do I need a food hygiene certificate if I run a home-baking business?

This is an important question to ask, especially if you’re planning on selling your cakes and other baked goods. Since you will be considered a ‘food handler’ you will need to show that you understand food safety. Also, if you employ anyone to help they will also be considered a food handler and they must be trained in food safety.

Having a food hygiene certificate shows that you understand the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your products and customers and it also helps to give your customers peace of mind when they purchase from you.

For most businesses baking from home, Level 2 Food Safety and Hygiene training should be sufficient.

Learn more about food hygiene training here.

Summary

Whether you are planning to set up a cake-baking business or another type of home-based food business hopefully this blog has summarised the key elements you need to consider. In terms of food safety, make sure you register your food business at least 28 days before you plan to start trading.

Before your inspection, consider completing the food premises inspection check to help you prepare.

On the day of the inspection, take a deep breath, be confident and show/ explain to the officer how you manage food safety in your home-based business. Best of luck!

HOW TO GET YOUR

5 STAR RATING

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

FREE EBOOK!

“How to get your 5-star food hygiene rating.”

Written by Chartered Environmental Health Officer, Natalie Stanton.

Includes a 50-point inspection checklist!

Learn what the officer will be inspecting and achieve the top Food Hygiene Rating for your business.

Here's how I can help you

Get food safety training from an Environmental Health Officer (EHO). 

This is the UK’s first self-taught, online Level 2 Food Safety & Hygiene course for Catering that is created and taught by EHO, Natalie Stanton. There are no PowerPoint slides and no monotonous voiceover. In only 2 hours, Natalie guides you through the key aspects of food safety in 13 short, pre-recorded videos.