Safer Food Better Business for Caterers pack – walk-through

Table of Contents

Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) is a simple toolkit developed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to help small businesses comply with Article 5 of Retained Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004. This legislation requires that food businesses put in place food safety management procedures based on the principles of HACCP.

SFBB can be used by small food businesses in the UK to help them meet this requirement.

While completing SFBB may initially seem daunting it is essential to ensure the safety of customers and the overall success of a food business. The SFBB pack is designed to simplify the process of putting in place food safety management procedures.

In this blog, I will guide you through each section of the SFBB caterer’s pack, offering pointers and tips to help you complete it effectively.

Who am I to talk you through SFBB?

Let me introduce myself. I’m Natalie, a Chartered EHO with 11 years of experience working for local authorities. Throughout my career, I’ve reviewed countless SFBB packs, ranging to excellent to not-so-great ones. In this blog, I will share insights into what EHOs like myself typically look for when inspecting a business’s SFBB pack. It is worth noting that most EHOs will be looking at similar things when inspecting your SFBB pack.

How to use the SFBB for caterers pack

SFBB for caterers is aimed at small catering businesses like restaurants, cafes and takeaways. The law requires that food businesses put in place food safety management procedures based on the principles of HACCP. SFBB is here to assist you in meeting this requirement. It is important to note that pack avoids using jargon words such as ‘HACCP’ to keep things simple and easy to understand.

The pack is divided into two main sections.

Section 1: Safe Methods

This section contains five ‘safe methods’ that you need to go through and complete. These safe methods are:

  • Cross-contamination
  • Cleaning
  • Chilling
  • Cooking
  • Management

Each safe method sub-divided into different topics each of which are in the main presented in three columns as follows:

Column 1 highlights the ‘Safety point’ emphasising the things that are important to make food safely.

Column 2 explains the ‘why?’ behind the safety point and explains why it is important.

Column 3 contains the ‘how do you do this?’. This is where you document the specific practices followed in your business. This may involve simply ticking a box for ‘yes or no’ answers or providing a brief description of your procedures. Some safe method sections contain a ‘check it’ segment. This explains what you need to look out for to make sure your method has worked. Additionally, there are information boxes on ‘what to do if things go wrong’ and ‘how to stop this happening again’. These serve as a reminder to go to the diary section and record incidents and actions taken.

Section 2: Diary

The second section contains a diary for you to fill in each day you are operating. In the diary, you should write down anything that happens and anything that goes wrong (including what you did about it!). For small businesses it is not necessary to keep lots of daily records and completing the diary should take just a couple of minutes each day.

We will delve deeper into the diary section later in this blog.

What you need to know before you start

Right at the beginning of the pack, there’s a section that covers the essentials of what food handlers need to know and do to ensure food safety. Since bacteria are invisible, it’s surprisingly easy to unknowingly transfer bacteria to food, which can make your customers sick!

There are a number of points to consider, organised under the following headings:

  • Before you start working with food
  • When you are working with food
  • How to wash hands effectively
  • When to wash hands

These sections can be valuable for training your staff. You can even print them out as posters to display in your kitchen. They are particularly useful for providing initial training on basic personal hygiene to new employees on their first day of work.

Now, let’s dive into the first safe method…

Cross-contamination

Cross-contamination is a leading cause of food poisoning, and it occurs when harmful bacteria spread to food from other sources like surfaces, hands, equipment, or even other foods. These harmful bacteria are often found in raw meat, poultry, fish, eggs and unwashed vegetables. Handling these foods with care is of utmost importance. Bacteria can also originate from food handlers, pests, equipment, cloths, or even dirt and soil (such as those found on fruits, vegetables, or salad items).

This section also addresses the protection of food from physical and chemical contamination. Additionally, it provides insights into managing the risk of cross-contamination, or what we call cross-contact, in relation to allergens.

This section consists of the following sub-sections:

  • Personal hygiene and fitness to work
  • Cloths
  • Separating foods
  • Food allergies
  • Physical and chemical contamination
  • Pest control
  • Maintenance

Personal hygiene and fitness to work

This sub-section covers the importance of staff maintaining good personal hygiene practices to help prevent spreading bacteria to food. Good personal hygiene practices include:

  • Regular hand washing including before handing and preparing food
  • Wearing clean work clothes and changing into them before starting work
  • Wearing aprons and changing them after handling or preparing raw food
  • Keeping hair tied back and wearing hats/ hairnets when working with food
  • Not wearing jewellery or watches when preparing food
  • Not smoking, drinking, eating or chewing gum when handling food
  • Not touching your face or nose when handling food and not coughing or sneezing near food. And washing your hands if you do any of these things
  • Ensuring staff are fit for work at all times. This means they are not suffering from, or carrying an illness or disease that could cause a problem in terms of food safety
  • Ensuring that staff suffering from sickness or diarrhoea report it to their manager/ supervisor immediately and do not return to work/ are moved out of food preparation areas until they have been clear of symptoms for at least 48 hours
  • Ensuring that staff tell their manager or supervisor about any cuts, wounds or sores so that they can be completely covered with a brightly coloured, waterproof dressing.

For each safety point, it’s essential to read it and understand why it’s important. Some safety points require you to explain how you implement them in your business.

Let’s consider an example:

Safety point: “Staff should always wash their hands thoroughly before handling and preparing food”.

Why?: “Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading”.

How do you do this?: “Are all staff trained to wash their hands before preparing food?”. You need to indicate ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in response to this question.

Cloths

Cloths are a common source of cross-contamination, making it essential to use them correctly in order to prevent the spread of bacteria and allergens throughout the kitchen.

This sub-section focuses on the types of cloths that should be used and how they should be used. For example: disposable cloths are recommended to ensure that any bacteria or allergens picked up by the cloth will not be spread around the kitchen.

Regarding reusable cloths, there is a designated space where you can explain how you clean them. This can be as straightforward as washing them in a washing machine using the 90°C cycle. If you only use single-use, disposable cloths, you can state this in the provided box.

The next part of this sub-section addresses the use of different cloths for specific tasks. For example:

  • Wiping surfaces
  • Mopping up spills
  • Wiping hands
  • Wiping sides of dishes before serving
  • Drying ingredients

You should mark ‘yes’ for the tasks in which you utilise disposable cloths or paper towels. If you do something different, there is a box where you need to write this.

Separating foods

Keeping raw and ready-to-eat food separate is essential to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading.

This section focuses on how you ensure the separation of raw and ready-to-eat foods throughout various stages, including delivery and collection, storage, defrosting, preparation, and cooking. You will find boxes that require your input, such as indicating when deliveries arrive, explaining how you ensure the segregation of raw and ready-to-eat foods during storage and explaining where you defrost foods.

Let’s consider an example: “How do you separate raw meat/poultry and other foods during preparation?” Your response may include having a dedicated area specifically for preparing raw meat/poultry and using separate chopping boards and knives. In cases where your kitchen lacks sufficient space for separate areas, you may opt to allocate specific time intervals to each task while ensuring thorough cleaning and disinfection between tasks.

Food allergies

It is a legal requirement for you to tell your customers if the foods you serve contain any of the 14 allergens.

Food Allergens poster

This sub-section focuses on how you effectively handle food allergens in the dishes you prepare. It covers the entire process, starting from the point of delivery to storage, preparation, and service or takeaway orders. For instance, there is a designated box where you can explain your approach to preparing food for customers with allergies. This may involve:

  • Checking ingredient labels to ensure they do not contain allergens that your customer is allergic to.
  • Informing the customer if the label states that the product “may contain” certain allergens.
  • Thoroughly cleaning all food preparation surfaces before starting the food preparation process and ensuring that food handlers wash their hands thoroughly.
  • Using separate chopping boards and dedicated equipment specifically for preparing allergen-free meals.
  • If a mistake occurs during food preparation, starting from scratch with fresh ingredients.

Physical and chemical contamination

This sub-section focuses on how you prevent foreign objects and chemicals getting into food. There is nothing for you to complete in this section, but it is important that you read it carefully to ensure you follow it in practice.

Pest control

This sub-section focuses on the steps you take to keep pests out of your premises. This is important because pests can spread harmful bacteria.

There are a few boxes for you to complete to demonstrate:

  • When do you check for pests?
  • Do you employ a pest control contractor? (N.B. This is good practice, but not a legal requirement).
  • How do you check deliveries?
  • How often do you check external areas?

Maintenance

This sub-section focuses on how you ensure effective maintenance of your premises and equipment to facilitate cleaning and ensure you keep pests out.

There is a box where you need to provide details of how you ensure effective maintenance of your premises and equipment.

Cleaning

Effective cleaning is essential to get rid of harmful bacteria, viruses and allergens to stop them spreading to food. This section is made up of the following sub-sections:

  • Hand washing
  • Cleaning effectively
  • How to clear and clean as you go
  • Developing your cleaning schedule

Hand washing

Hand washing is one of the most important actions that a food handler can take to prevent food being contaminated with harmful bacteria.

There are a few boxes for you to tick in relation to hand washing:

  • Do you use liquid soap?
  • Do you use disposable towels?
  • Do you use antibacterial soap which meets standard BS EN 1499?

If you answer no to any of these questions, there is a box where you need to explain what you do instead.

Cleaning effectively

Cleaning effectively is of utmost importance in order to eliminate harmful bacteria and prevent pest infestations.

Within this sub-section, you will find several safety points that cover various aspects of cleaning and disinfection. This includes guidance on using disinfectants/sanitizers and the required standards they should meet, as well as instructions on effectively washing plates, equipment and other items (preferably using a regularly maintained and serviced dishwasher). Additionally, it highlights areas that are high priority for cleaning, such as frequently touched surfaces.

Let’s consider an example; “Where do you keep information to confirm your disinfectants or sanitisers meet BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697?” Your response may include stating that you have obtained this information from the supplier and it is stored either in a physical folder or electronically. Alternatively, you may explain that this information can be found on the product label.

Clear and clean as you go

Clearing and cleaning as you go is a valuable practice that enhances the safety of food preparation. This sub-section offers various examples of how you can implement this approach. Additionally, there is a dedicated box where you can explain how you clear and clean as you go in your kitchen. Here are some possible considerations to include:

  • Remove outer packaging from food before bringing it into your kitchen or storage areas.
  • Maintain a clutter-free and tidy kitchen environment by promptly disposing of rubbish.
  • Quickly remove dirty equipment from work areas.
  • Properly dispose of packaging and food waste from raw food, ensuring that any surfaces touched by raw food or its packaging are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Keep sinks clear and regularly clean and disinfect them.

There are also some boxes you need to complete on how you manage food waste.

Developing your cleaning schedule

This sub-section emphasizes the importance of having a cleaning schedule, outlines the key elements to include, and provides guidance on completing the cleaning schedule template found in the diary section. When you are ready to create your cleaning schedule, referring back to this section will be beneficial.

Chilling

Chilling food correctly is important to stop harmful bacteria from multiplying. Certain foods must be kept chilled to prevent bacteria from multiplying in them because this could make them unsafe and lead to food poisoning.

These foods include:

  • Sandwiches
  • Cooked meat, poultry and fish
  • Cooked rice and pasta
  • Cream-based desserts
  • Food with a Use By date or that states ‘keep refrigerated’ on the label

This section is made up of the following sub-sections:

  • Chilled storage and displaying chilled food
  • Chilling down hot food
  • Defrosting
  • Freezing

Chilled storage and displaying chilled food

Within this sub-section, there are several boxes for you to complete in relation to keeping certain foods chilled, use by dates and the use of fridges and chilled display equipment. There is also a part on how you check the temperature of fridges and chilled display units. You need to complete this to show what you do, i.e. do you check the digital display of the appliance, use a dial thermometer, a fridge thermometer or probe thermometer?

Chilling down hot food

It is crucial to chill down hot food as quickly as possible to prevent the multiplication of harmful bacteria. This sub-section presents various methods for chilling down food, and you should tick the boxes for the methods you use. If you use a method that is not listed, there is a box where you can describe the specific method you use.

Defrosting

Harmful bacteria can grow in food that is not defrosted properly. This sub-section offers several examples of safe defrosting methods. You need to tick the boxes for the methods that you use. If you use a method that is not listed, there is a box where you can provide details of the method you use.

Freezing

To ensure food safety care must be taken when freezing food and handling frozen food. This sub-section contains some questions for which you need to tick ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The questions are as follows:

  • Is frozen food put in the freezer as soon as it is delivered?
  • Is fresh and cooked food put in the freezer as soon as it has been delivered, prepared, or chilled down?
  • Is food divided into smaller portions to help it freeze better?
  • Is frozen food stored in containers or freezer bags?

Cooking

Food must be cooked properly to kill any harmful bacteria and to avoid causing food poisoning. It is also important to handle ready-to-eat food carefully to protect it from bacteria. This section is made up of the following sub-sections:

  • Cooking safely
  • Foods that need extra care
  • Acrylamide
  • Checking your menu
  • Hot holding
  • Ready-to-eat food

Cooking safely

This sub-section covers many safety points in relation to the cooking of food. There is nothing for you to complete in this sub-section, but it is important to read the information carefully to ensure you follow it in practice.

Foods that need extra care

Some foods need to be handled with extra care to ensure they remain safe to eat. These include eggs, rice, pulses, shellfish and fish. This sub-section provides detailed safety points in relation to these foods. Additionally, there are boxes for you to complete regarding your practices for handling these food types. For example, you need to explain how you keep rice hot before serving. If you do not handle any of these foods, you can put ‘n/a’ in the box. This helps to demonstrate to the EHO that you have reviewed the sub-section and determined its relevance to your operations.

Reheating

Proper reheating is essential to eliminate harmful bacteria that may have developed in the food since it was cooked. This sub-section provides safety points on various methods of reheating food. You only need to complete this section if you use a reheating method that is not listed. In that case, there is a box where you can provide details about your specific reheating method.

Acrylamide

Acrylamide is a chemical that naturally forms when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures (above 120°C), such as frying, roasting, baking, grilling and toasting. This sub-section offers safety points to help reduce acrylamide levels in the finished product. There are boxes for you to tick if you use any of these methods to minimise acrylamide levels in food.

Checking your menu

This sub-section presents a list of dishes in which proper cooking is crucial to eliminate harmful bacteria. It provides different checks for different types of dishes. There are boxes provided for you to write down the dishes on your menu next to the corresponding type of check you use for each dish.

Hot holding

Hot-holding food correctly is very important to stop harmful bacteria from multiplying in food.

In this sub-section, there are boxes for you to complete. For example, you need to indicate whether you hot hold food by ticking ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If you do not hot hold, you can mark this section as ‘n/a’ and proceed. If you do hot hold, you need to provide further information, such as the equipment you use for hot holding, which may include a bain-marie, hot cupboard or soup kettle.

Ready-to-eat food

Ready-to-eat food must be handled correctly to protect it from harmful bacteria and allergens. Ready-to-eat food is not cooked or reheated, meaning that any harmful bacteria present will not be killed. Examples of ready-to-eat foods include cooked meats/poultry, salads, sandwiches, smoked fish, desserts, cheese, and foods prepared in advance to be served cold.

In this sub-section, you will find a box where you must list the types of ready-to-eat foods you use and provide details on how you handle them. Additionally, there are safety points on preparing fruit, vegetables, and salad items, storing ready-to-eat foods, and slicing cooked meat. You must read and complete these boxes where applicable.

Management

Managing food safety in your business is essential. This section provides information on different management matters, including:

  • Opening and closing checks
  • Extra checks
  • Prove it records
  • Managing food allergen information
  • Training and supervising staff
  • Customers
  • Suppliers and contractors
  • Stock control
  • Product withdrawal and recall
  • Safe method completion record

This section should be used alongside the diary, which should be signed every day by the person responsible for running the business. It is important that the person responsible for running the business reads this section carefully.

In terms of parts that may need to be completed. These include:

  • Extra checks- this is for you to list any extra checks that you do along with details of how often you do these. For example: carrying out a deep clean or checking your temperature probe is working accurately.
  • Managing allergen information- there are a number of boxes in this section that you need to complete to show how you manage allergen information in your business. For example: where do you keep allergen information for the foods you serve?
  • Safe method completion record- once you have worked through the pack and completed all of the safe methods that are relevant to your business you should sign and date this record. If a safe method is not relevant, then there is a box for you to tick to show that you have determined that the safe method is not relevant.

Diary

To get started, fill in your name, business name, address, and start date. The diary consists of the following sections:

  • Week-to-view diary pages
  • Checks to do every day when you open and close (known as opening and closing checks)
  • 4-weekly review
  • Staff training record
  • Suppliers’ list
  • Contacts list
  • Cleaning schedule

Let’s take a closer look at each of them:

Diary pages

The manager should sign the diary every day to confirm that the opening and closing checks have been completed and that safe methods have been followed.

On most days the diary should only take a couple of minutes to complete. If something different happens or if something goes wrong, then this may take a little longer. But you should make a note in the diary of what happened and what action you took to make sure the food you serve remained safe to eat. For instance, if your fridge breaks down, record the issue and what steps you took, such as getting it repaired, transferring the food to another fridge or disposing of it if it was left at an unsafe temperature.

Opening and closing checks

These checks need to be performed by you and/or your staff each time you open and close. The diary provides a list of standard opening and closing checks, but you can add any additional checks that you do. It is important that your staff are trained in how to do these checks.

One other thing to note is that if your diary has been ticked to show that opening checks have been done (one of the checks is ensuring that there are plenty of hand washing materials including soap and paper towels), if the EHO turns up that same morning to do your inspection and they find there is no hand soap at the wash hand basin this creates a bad impression. This makes it look like you are not actually doing the checks.

4-weekly review

This section prompts you to review the previous four weeks and identify any recurring issues. Write down the details of these problems and outline your plan for addressing them, such as retraining staff or changing how you do certain things.

Staff training record

Complete this record for each staff member to document their training dates for different safe methods. Not all staff members need to be trained on every safe method; their training should be specific to their job roles. For example: a staff member who works in the front of house making coffee would not need to be trained in the cooking section. Whereas a chef would need to be trained in all of the safe methods.

Consider providing formal food hygiene training for your staff as it can be beneficial to have certificates demonstrating their training.

Suppliers list

You should complete this so that you have a record of each of your suppliers, what goods they supply to you and what days they deliver. This should be updated each time you change suppliers.

Contacts list

While not mandatory, it can be helpful to have a list of contacts for individuals or services related to your food business. Examples include details of the local authority Environmental Health team, pest control contractor, or refuse collector.

Cleaning schedule

To complete the cleaning schedule, you should walk through your premises and make a list of everything that needs to be cleaned. Some of these you may be able to group together. For each item, or group of items, write down how often they need to be cleaned, any safety precautions (i.e. wear gloves or goggles) and the method of cleaning. The method of cleaning should include how you clean the items, what chemicals you use, how you use the chemicals and what equipment you use to clean each item.

You should review the cleaning schedule regularly and carry out checks and supervision to ensure cleaning is being done properly. Make sure your staff are trained on the cleaning schedule so they know what to do and when.

Prove it records

You should check regularly that a method you use is safe. This is especially important if you use a method that is different to one listed in the pack. But even for methods listed in the pack checking that a method is working properly can give you reassurance.

There is a table where you can record details of these “prove it” checks. For example, if you use a digital temperature probe to ensure thorough cooking of a chicken breast, record the cooking time, date, and core temperature.

What should you do next?

If you have decided that SFBB (Safer Food, Better Business) is suitable for your business, you can download a free SFBB pack from the Food Standards Agency website or by clicking here. Alternatively, you have the option to purchase a printed version of the pack on platforms like Amazon or eBay for around £20.

Once you have the pack, you should work through it section by section, completing all the relevant safe methods applicable to your business. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. Each safe method takes approximately one hour to complete, so you may consider doing one section at a time. You could even choose to do one method per day or per week.

After you have completed all the relevant sections, there are two crucial steps to follow:

  1. Make sure you (and your staff) follow the safe methods all the time. It is important that your staff are trained in how to handle and prepare food safety.
  2. Make sure to complete the diary every day that your business is operating. This includes signing the diary to confirm the completion of opening and closing checks and adherence to safe methods

Summary

In summary, the Safer Food Better Business pack provides a comprehensive and user-friendly toolkit for caterers to comply with food safety regulations. The SFBB pack, developed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), simplifies the process of implementing food safety management procedures based on HACCP principles.

Throughout this blog we have walked through each section of the SFBB caterer’s pack, offering valuable insights and tips for completion.

The SFBB pack was divided into two main sections. Section 1 focuses on “Safe Methods” and includes essential topics such as cross-contamination, cleaning, chilling, cooking, and management. Each safe method provides safety points, explanations of their importance, and practical instructions for implementation. The pack also includes sections for checking and addressing potential issues, as well as a diary for daily operations.

Overall, the SFBB pack serves as an invaluable tool for small catering businesses, offering clear guidance on food safety management. By following the SFBB pack and consistently implementing its procedures, caterers can ensure the prevention of cross-contamination, effective cleaning practices, proper chilling of food, and allergen management. Prioritising food safety is crucial in preventing foodborne illnesses and maintaining customer trust.

References:

Food Standards Agency- Safer Food Better Business for Caterers pack.

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