Business Companion: guidance on food & drink

Eating and drinking are two of the great pleasures in life. Indeed, food and drink are so central to all of our daily activities and leisure time that often it can be easy to take for granted just how much goes into their preparation, distribution and sale.

But it's important for business owners to remember that every stage of the process that results in a hearty meal being placed in front of a hungry customer is rigidly legislated, and that the legislation is strongly enforced.

Because of the seriousness with which transgressions of the law are treated, it is vital for those involved in the manufacture and selling of food and drink to ensure that they are fully versed in their responsibilities, and aware of the implications of getting things wrong.

The law around the selling of food and drink is, in some ways, fairly simple. It broadly centres on five key issues:

  • its quality must align with customers' expectations
  • the product being sold must be described and presented accurately
  • anything added or removed must not affect the product's safety
  • it must be prepared in a safe and hygienic manner
  • the finished product must be properly labelled

Business Companion's Food & drink section is a great resource for information about the preparation, composition and labelling of food. Its Quick Guide offers a broad overview of the key issues to bear in mind, while the In-depth Guides serve up more detailed information that can be specifically applied to the circumstances of your business.

There are, of course, several areas in which food and drink regulation overlaps with other trading standards and business issues - for example, weights and measures, or delivery and distribution. These are treated in detail on other parts of the Business Companion website.

Business Companion lays out in simple, easy-to-follow language the issues that are most relevant. For example, if you run a restaurant or cafe selling non-prepacked foods, it offers advice on any warnings that must be included with regards to certain ingredients. Likewise, if you operate a business such as a shop that sells prepacked foods, the guides set out the labelling rules you must adhere to.

The In-depth Guides narrow the focus on to more detailed discussion of issues such as the law around the disposal of food, legislation surrounding the sale and preparation of foods that are classified as allergens, and discussion of the things to bear in mind when it comes to genetically modified foodstuffs.

So whether you run a burger van or a fine-dining restaurant, a chippy or a cornershop, take the time to visit Business Companion. Even if you think you are up to date on the current state of the law it never hurts to refresh your memory and pass that information on to your staff. And it's more than likely that you'll stumble upon something of value that could save you from having a nasty taste in your mouth at some point in the future.