Food Hygiene

Food Hygiene for Businesses - What you need to do

Train your staff

You need to make sure that your employees are supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene matters in order to produce safe food for consumers. Further guidance is available on the Food Standards Agency website.

You can contact training providers that are able to provide courses either at face to face training or via online courses. We recommend you use a reputable provider that is registered and approved by an independent assessing body.

Produce a documented food safety management system

Before you start operating as a food business, and before your inspection, you'll need to complete a documented food safety management system; this is a document to explain the procedures that you undertake within your business to ensure that you produce food which is safe to eat. Any members of staff that you have must be trained in your system.

The Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland has produced two food safety management system packs; Safer Food Better Business (for smaller businesses) and Safe Catering (for larger food businesses such as hotels and restaurants with extensive menus).

Safer Food Better Business (SFBB)

There are several types of Safer Food Better Business pack:

  • Safer Food Better Business Catering - for catering businesses (sandwich makers, takeaways etc.)
  • Safer Food Better Business Retail - for retail businesses

There are also versions of the pack in languages other than English and an industry specific insert for those operating care homes. 

To get any of these packs, go to the  Safer food, better business section on the Food Standards Agency website.

SFBB Diary Refill

You can print out the new print-friendly version of the diary refill separately if you only need that part of the pack. This new version can be completed electronically and allows you to download the diary pages onto your computer desktop, fill them in, name them for the appropriate month and year and store them electronically, if you prefer.

No matter which format you choose to use, you should store all your completed diary pages safely until your next visit from our officers. They may wish to look at your diary pages.

SFBB Catering Pack Diary Refill [PDF, 456kB]
SFBB Retail Pack Diary Refill [PDF, 192kB]

Safe Catering

Safe Catering is a practical and easy to use guide that will help catering businesses and retailers with a catering function to comply with food legislation, produce a food safety management plan based on HACCP principles and to keep the appropriate records.

The Safe Catering Guide (Issue 6) was updated in February 2015.

This edition includes information for food business operators on how to control the risk of cross contamination from harmful bacteria, and specifically E coli O157.

The guide also includes two posters for businesses to pin-up on their walls illustrating effective hand washing technique to be used by food handlers and a poster to display on the wall in an area where ready-to-eat food is being handled.

It also includes the  Safe Catering recording forms SC1-SC9

Layout, Design and Structural Requirements

You also need to consider the layout, design and structural requirements for the premises. The Food Standards Agencies ‘Starting-Up’ Booklet contains an overview of the considerations of starting a food business from structure and layout requirements to advice on labelling and V.A.T).

Food Standards Agency Starting-Up booklet [PDF, 332kB] 

When deciding upon the layout of your premises, separation of raw from ready-to-eat foods and good hygiene practices, signage can be a useful visual reminder.

Below we have provided a selection of useful signage for you to print, laminate and display. It's available as a single document that can be printed in full or you may choose to print certain pages, as required.

Useful Kitchen Signage [PDF, 229kB]

Other important documents you should read:

These useful documents will assist you with complying with the legal obligations.

E.coli Factsheet [PDF, 153kB]
(From the Food Standards Agency) - to assist you in the control of the bacteria E.coli 0157. The measures in this factsheet must be incorporated into your documented food safety management system.

Safe methods examples following E.coli [PDF, 503kB]
From us - relating to completion of your Safer Food Better Business documented food safety management system in light of the FSA E.coli guidance)


For businesses where language can be a barrier to understanding what is required we can offer a translation service.

Food Inspections and Interventions

The Law

The Food Safety (Northern Ireland) Order and Regulations made there under, aim to ensure that all food offered for sale to the public is safe to eat and is properly described. It is the responsibility of the Environmental Health Service to enforce this and other related food legislation.

Food Hygiene Inspections

All food businesses operating within the Ards and North Down Borough Council area are subject to regular food safety inspections which are carried out by officers of the Council's Food Safety Team.

Inspection of Food Premises

Environmental Health Officers have the power to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours and they will usually come without advance notice. They carry out routine inspections and may also visit as the result of a complaint. How often a routine inspection happens depends on the potential risk posed by the type of business and its previous record.

The Purpose of Inspections
  • To ensure that food is being handled and produced hygienically.
  • To ensure that food is safe to eat.
  • To look at the potential risk of food poisoning as a result of food contamination.
  • To ensure that food handling staff are trained in food hygiene.
  • To inspect the condition of the premises and equipment.
  • To ensure there are precautions to prevent pest infestation.
  • To ensure that staff are aware of the importance of personal hygiene.
  • To ensure food safety hazards have been identified, are being controlled, monitored and documented in a Food Safety Management System, for example Safer Food Better Business or Safe Catering. (link here)
  • To offer advice about good Food Hygiene Practices.
Powers of an Environmental Health Officer

Officers have a right to enter and inspect premises at all reasonable hours. They have the power to:

  • Inspect a premises
  • Inspect food
  • Take samples and photographs and examine records
  • Serve Hygiene Improvement Notices where breaches of the law are identified
  • Detain or seize suspect food
  • In serious cases, carry out a prosecution
  • Where there is an imminent risk, serve an Emergency Hygiene Prohibition Notice which forbids the use of the premises or equipment.
Enforcement Action taken by Environmental Health Officers

Enforcement Action taken by Environmental Health Officers

- No Action: A report of visit will be left at the time of visit if the premises are satisfactory and no breaches of legislation are established. No further action will take place.
- Informal Action: A report of visit will be left at the time of the visit. An informal notice will then be sent in the form of a letter and a schedule if breaches are established, but are not serious enough to take formal action.
- Formal action: Depending on the seriousness of the breach of legislation the following formal action may be used:

  • Hygiene Improvement Notice
  • Hygiene Prohibition Notice
  • Seizure or detention of suspect foods
  • Formal Caution
  • Prosecution

It is a criminal offence not to comply with a notice once served.


For businesses where language can be a barrier to understanding what is required we can offer a translation service.