Food Safety: Education



INTRODUCTION Our research has shown that some schools are failing children when it comes to food hygiene in school kitchens. While food hygiene ratings do not play a part in a school’s Ofsted report, they are something that the public places great importance on. We have found that while many schools place providing nutritious, healthy food high on their list of priorities, others have let standards slip when it comes to monitoring food preparation and hygiene standards in their kitchens.


The food hygiene rating scheme helps us choose where to eat or shop for food based on how seriously a business takes its food hygiene standards. You’d be unlikely to choose to eat at a restaurant that scored a 2 or below – why should your staff and students have to? All businesses that serve food, including schools, are required to display their food hygiene rating in a public place. Each business is given a rating after an inspection by a food safety officer , based

on how hygienically food is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored; the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and condition of the food preparation areas and how they manage and record their food safety standards.

Businesses are rated from 0-5 with the top rating of 5 meaning that they have very good hygiene standards.


Many schools outsource the provision of meals to outside caterers however did you know that the food hygiene rating score applies to the school itself? There are currently 129 schools listed on the government’s food hygiene ratings website with a score of 2 or below.

CHILDREN ARE CLASSED AS A VULNERABLE GROUP This means that they are more susceptible to foodborne illness – so it is vital to ensure you’re doing everything you can to guarantee the food served in your school is prepared in a safe and hygienic environment. We’ve all heard the media reports about peanuts being banned from schools but did you know that there are 14 ingredients covered by allergen management legislation?

It’s important that children or employees who suffer from food allergies are able to be confident that they can safely eat the food your school provides. In this e-guide we will look at the three fundamental areas an EHO will look at during an inspection and how getting these three areas right will mean that your school will have little trouble in achieving and maintaining the highest 5* food hygiene rating.

This is the first of the three fundamental criteria that an EHO considers. It is not just how competent your school chef is but gives careful consideration to documented food safety management systems (HACCP), record keeping and the general approach to food safety demonstrated during an inspection. A properly documented food safety management systemwill fully reflect the processes followed in your kitchen, identifying where any hazards are and the requisite controls put in place to ensure the hazard does not affect the food you serve. CONFIDENCE INMANAGEMENT

Some of these controls will be classed as critical (CCP’s) and are usually the ones which are monitored e.g. fridge storage temperatures or the end cook temperatures of foods. The EHO will be looking to see whether you have identified the CCP’s and that you have put in place and are maintaining suitable records to demonstrate daily control. It’s important to remember that these records should not be made up; they must reflect what is going on in the kitchen.

The EHO will also look at how well trained your staff are. Food hygiene training is essential for most food handlers and, traditionally, the Level 2 Award in Food Safety is the accepted standard. However times are changing. EHO’s are not just looking for certificates; they want to see staff demonstrate their understanding of food safety and, more specifically, the food safety controls which are detailed in the food safety management system. If you get training right then food safety standards will be so much better, and your EHO will recognise this. CONFIDENCE INMANAGEMENT

Management record keeping extends to more than just temperatures and training certificates; due diligence is the prescribed defence that allows you to demonstrate you were doing all in your power to maintain food safety. Proving suitable opening and closing checks are conducted daily is a good way of proving that activities such as stock rotation have taken place, suitable supplies of cleaning chemicals are available and hand washing basins are suitably stocked. If your EHO sees that your activities are backed up by good record keeping then you will invariably score well in this section of your food hygiene rating score. CONFIDENCE INMANAGEMENT

The second fundamental area is the structural condition of your operation, which includes how clean your premises are . If you make sure that the basics of structural surfaces, walls, floors and ceilings are finished to a good standard and that all equipment is suitable to your operation and in good condition then you are off to a good start! It’s important to remember that equipment needs servicing and being able to prove you have plans in place to enable the upkeep of your kit is important. STRUCTURAL CONDITION

Don’t wait for the EHO to ask you – if you have processes in place, be sure to tell them.


Cleaning is a rather obvious aspect of food safety that many schools simply get wrong. It’s also the easiest for an EHO to identify. Keeping your kitchen clean is a basic and rather simple rule to follow. Accurate cleaning schedules can really help either improve or maintain your standards; a good cleaning schedule will identify all cleaning tasks, frequency of cleaning and what equipment/chemicals should be used to complete the cleaning. It is really good practice to ensure the person completing the tasks signs the schedule to say they have cleaned the items, then a supervisor should verify the cleaning . Many successful businesses only allow a supervisor to sign off the schedule as completed once they are happy that cleaning standards are suitable.

It’s essential to ensure you have the right tools to clean your kitchen . At the minimum, you should always have detergent and sanitisers available as well as antibacterial soap and heavier cleaning chemicals e.g. a degreaser. Sanitisers must be made up and ready to use before food preparation starts. It’s also important to check on the label that they conform to BS EN 1276 as EHO’s will look for this. Chemicals are not the only requirement. You also need to ensure you have suitable cloths, mops and buckets. Remember that cleaning equipment should be kept clean at all times so rinse out mop heads and buckets after each use and never leave a mop in dirty water. STRUCTURAL CONDITION

It’s very important to use two stage cleaning techniques . The E.coli guide sets out the guidelines for ensuring that food preparation surfaces are properly cleaned after preparing rawmeat and EHO’s are always on the lookout for this. In most inspections, they will ask staff to demonstrate their cleaning techniques therefore it’s important that staff are aware of the need to clean surfaces down with detergent/sanitiser to remove food debris and grease then to clean down again with a sanitiser to ensure that bacteria are killed. Get this right and the EHO will score your school well on structure and cleaning.


The third fundamental aspect takes into account elements such as cross-contamination control , personal hygiene standards and temperature control. These are most commonly demonstrated by practical and physical implementation of your food safety management system procedures. Controlling cross-contamination requires some thought. There are some basic areas such as ensuring that rawmeat and fish are always stored below or separately from ready to eat foods, or using colour coded chopping boards. However since legislation on allergenic ingredients changed, cross-contamination control also

means ensuring that you take steps to avoid contaminating food with any of the 14 known allergens . This extends to storage of allergenic ingredients and handling procedures during preparation, cooking and service.

Remember – allergen advice needs to be clearly available and you must not guess at the content of foods!

Maintaining temperature control of foods during storage, cooking/reheating, cooling and service is of vital importance. If you can prove that you know your temperature targets and have the right tools i.e. working probe thermometer and antibacterial probe wipes, then you are a long way down the road to compliance. Recording temperatures, as mentioned above, helps close the loop to compliance. HYGIENE STANDARDS

Certain target temperatures are better known than others e.g. 8°C for fridges and 75°C for cooked foods, and demonstrating this to your EHO isn’t a bad thing.


EHO’s are also looking at food cooling with increased detail. It’s essential to ensure you cool food as quickly as possible , although there’s a common misconception that you only have 90 minutes in which to cool food to below 8°C. That is the case with blast chillers but if you are manually cooling food i.e. with ice baths or walk-in fridges, then you actually have up to 4 hours. This doesn’t mean it should take 4 hours every time; you should take as many steps as possible to ensure that food is cooled quickly.

Cutting food into smaller portions, placing liquids into shallow containers and placing food on ice baths or in cold areas of the kitchen are all good practices to speed up cooling . A good target is to get foods as cool as possible within 90 minutes then place it in a fridge to ensure that they are below 8°C within a maximum of 4 hours. You should check and keep records to demonstrate that this happens, in line with your other temperature records.


Personal hygiene is hugely important for maintaining food safety. When an EHO inspects, they will always be looking to see whether staff wash their hands and how they do it. Ensuring proper hand washing should be part of any food handler’s induction training but regular checking and refresher training can certainly help. It goes without saying you should ensure hand wash basins have running hot and cold water and are stocked with antibacterial soap and paper towels . Ideally hand wash basins should have elbow taps but, if not, you should ensure that staff turn off the taps using paper towels instead of touching themwith their clean hands.


It’s also good practice to appoint a recognised pest controller to monitor the conditions in kitchen; they should visit the premises about 8 times a year and be available for emergency call out visits if any unwelcome intruders are spotted. Keeping contamination controls in place, looking after personal hygiene standards, keeping premises pest free and ensuring that all your temperature controls are in place will keep your food safe and your EHO happy.

Finally, it’s critical to ensure that your premises are pest free ; the majority of closures and prosecutions carried out by EHO’s are pest related. It’s not difficult to keep your school kitchen free from rodents and insects. A basic control is ensuring that they cannot get in in the first place but keeping your kitchen clean won’t just satisfy your EHO – it will make sure that pests have nothing to eat.


At the STS Food Safety we offer a wide range of food safety training courses: LEVEL 3 AWARD IN FOOD SAFETY (Full day course) LEVEL 3 SUPERVISING HACCP (Two day course) LEVEL 3 FOODALLERGENMANAGEMENT (Full day course) LEVEL 1, 2 AND 3 FOOD SAFETY (e-learning courses)

If you are interested in any of our courses, please contact Visit our blog for up to date information on all things employment law.



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