Hygiene regulations in the foodservice industry: what you need to know.
At the start, hygiene regulations in the foodservice industry often seem like a tiresome obligation involving a lot of red tape. But once the HACCP concept is in place and the control measures have become routine, the topic can be seen in a new light: hygiene becomes a seal of quality that distinguishes your business and makes it a safe place for its guests. But what are the current hygiene regulations? What do you need to be aware of as a foodservice business? And how do you implement these regulations in your business? You will find the answers on this page.
1 Why is hygiene so important in the foodservice industry?
Hygiene affects all areas of life and aims to prevent infections, stop the spread of diseases and maintain health. Coronavirus has demonstrated the dangers posed by pathogens and how important protective hygiene measures are. This is especially true for the foodservice industry – wherever food is handled, strict compliance with hygiene standards is essential. This is because food is an ideal breeding ground for microorganisms and can be infected by pathogens on its way from harvest, slaughter or production and reach foodservice tables. It only takes one link in the hygiene chain to be weakened and food can be contaminated with residues and pollutants that are hazardous to health. To protect our health, strict hygiene regulations therefore exist to govern the production, storage, processing and preparation of food.
Foodservice kitchens carriy a special risk because they involve both clean and unclean areas. On the one hand, there is the area for clean work, such as the preparation, cooking, portioning and serving of food. This includes the provision of clean dishes. On the other hand, there is the area for unclean work, such as washing lettuce and vegetables, preparing raw animal parts or washing dishes and disposing of waste. This is where cross-contamination can occur, when pathogenic germs unintentionally find their way from unclean areas back into the clean processing area of the kitchen.
Cross-contamination can be prevented if clean and unclean areas are consistently separated. This starts in the kitchen planning phase and must be observed each and every day – by every employee. In the individual processing areas of the kitchen for example:
- Moving rubbish bins out of the kitchen or ideally using an organic waste disposal system
- Using different chopping boards and cleaning or disinfecting them thoroughly after use.
- Processing food that is susceptible to germs in a separate area (e.g. poultry, meat, eggs). Washing your hands thoroughly and cleaning and disinfecting all utensils and work surfaces that have been used.
- Using non-woven cleaning cloths, washing them out regularly and disinfecting or disposing of them at the end of the day.
- Using separate sinks and hand basins
1. Company hygiene concept
Every foodservice business must identify the critical work stages for food safety and establish appropriate safety measures. The basis for these preventive measures is the HACCP concept or HACCP system, which you must develop for your business and implement in accordance with the legal requirements.
2. Checks and self-monitoring
The law stipulates that you as a foodservice business are responsible for ensuring that hygiene regulations are observed in your establishment. The keyword is self-monitoring. It is your responsibility as a business to implement and monitor the necessary hygiene measures.
3. Documenting the measures
This point always causes uncertainty: There is no obligation on the part of the legislator to document the measures and controls carried out. But, you must present your HACCP concept during a food inspection if requested to do so – in a credible and comprehensible manner. And that works best with the help of proper documentation. We therefore recommend that you record the HACCP concept and all associated measures and controls in writing: including cleaning plans and disinfection plans, test plans, test instructions and test protocols, analysis reports and work instructions, etc.
4. Instructions according to the German Protection against Infection Act
Instructions regarding infections – both for you as a foodservice business and for kitchen staff. These instructions deal with the topic of infectious diseases – from the symptoms of the disease and preventive measures, to staff hygiene and reporting obligations, to prohibitions on activities and employment.
5. Company-specific hygiene training
In addition to the instructions on infection control, staff must also be trained on the subject of food hygiene – according to the respective activity and training. The aim is to teach the basic rules for hygienic behaviour in the workplace. It is up to you as a foodservice business to decide what content is to be taught, who is to conduct the training and how it is to be implemented. Fixed components should include the company’s own monitoring system (HACCP concept), personnel hygiene, industrial hygiene and production hygiene.
What does this mean? A wide variety of terms circulate around the topic of “hygiene in the foodservice industry”. We explain the most important ones.
The hygiene concept refers to the HACCP concept or HACCP system. It is a quality management system that every foodservice business must create individually for itself. It is based on self-monitoring and ensures that there is no danger to health when processing food. HACCP standards are defined for this and appropriate control procedures and measures are defined.
The hygiene plan is part of the company’s hygiene concept. It contains the defined procedures for compliance with hygiene standards, the associated cleaning and disinfection plans and documentation of the measures carried out.
Cleaning and disinfection plans are part of the hygiene plan and are prepared for each individual work area (kitchen, guest room, bar and counter, toilets, etc.). The plan contains a list of all cleaning work to be carried out – i.e. which surfaces have to be cleaned and disinfected, how and with which materials and agents. It often involves a checklist with a control section at the end. Cleaning staff document the work carried out, stating name, date and time.
Whether it’s swine flu or coronavirus, a pandemic plan or infection contingency plan helps to maintain the functionality of a foodservice business in the event of a pandemic and to minimise the health risks for employees. As an employer, you are responsible for defining measures to clarify suspected cases and, in the event of a confirmed infection, to identify and inform contacts.
Who do they inspect?
The food monitoring authority primarily inspects establishments where there is an increased risk – for example, if perishable food is handled (meat and fish, eggs, dairy products, etc.). Right at the top of the list are businesses that have received complaints. A suspicion or a complaint is checked without delay.
What is inspected?
First and foremost, the premises and the kitchen equipment are inspected, the employees’ work procedures are observed and food samples are taken. Bookkeeping records and documentation of the measures and controls that are part of the HACCP concept are also audited.
What happens in the event of complaints?
If the complaints are minor, the business owner just receives a briefing and a subsequent follow-up inspection. In the event of serious violations, the business owner receives a fine. If there is an acute health risk to guests or staff, the business may be forced to close and criminal proceedings may be initiated.