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Are you planning to cater from home for family or friends, perhaps for a wedding or birthday, or for a group meeting or even start a new business?

Remember, food poisoning is a miserable and potentially dangerous experience and it is your responsibility to make sure that your food does not make anybody ill.

Can I run a food business from home?

In simple terms, yes you can cater from home. However, if you decide to do this, you and your home must comply with food safety legislation, like any other food business. Depending on the size and nature of the catering you want to do it may be possible to do it without any significant alterations. However, if you are or will be catering for large numbers of people on a regular basis, you may need to make structural alterations to your home. Part III of 'The Catering Guide' , pages 35-38 (see attachment at the bottom of the page) gives some good structural hygiene guidance but you must remember that this document does not refer to the current hygiene regulations. You must register your business before you start to trade

What if I don't want to run a business, I just want to make a few items of food?

Even if you give away your food at a charity event you will still need need to comply with the hygiene regulations.

You might be planning to prepare the food at home and then take it somewhere else to be eaten, such as a community centre, social club or village hall. As the person preparing or handling the food, it is your responsibility to make sure your food does not make the guests ill. Food poisoning is a miserable and potentially dangerous experience. You will need to take extra care if any young children, pregnant women, older people or anyone who is ill will be coming to the function. This is because if anyone in these vulnerable groups gets food poisoning, they are more likely to become seriously ill.

Catering from home for large functions is not something to be taken on lightly. Large amounts of food need to be prepared in advance and stored appropriately. If this is not done properly the risk of food poisoning is increased. You need to plan ahead and think carefully about food safety. If you’re thinking of catering for larger numbers than usual, here are some key DOs and DON’Ts:

Plan carefully

DON’T make food too far in advance.

DON’T leave food standing around for several hours in a warm room before it is eaten.

DO make sure you’ve got enough fridge and freezer space. Get the help of friends and neighbours to make sure you have the capacity you need.

DO take special care with vulnerable groups.

Proper temperature control is essential

DO make sure that perishable food is kept chilled. Perishable food includes, for example, cold meats, quiches and desserts. Keep the most perishable foods in the coldest part of the fridge; but always store raw food below ready-to-eat food, in case there are any drips, and keep it in a leak-proof container.

DO make sure that food is cooked thoroughly. Large meat joints and whole poultry need special care to make sure the centre is well cooked. If you’re reheating food, DON’T do it more than once – and always heat it until piping hot all the way through. DO keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

Avoid contaminating prepared food

DON’T let raw foods, such as meat and poultry, or unwashed fruit, vegetables and salads, come into contact with food that is ready to eat.

DO wash your hands thoroughly before touching foods and after handling raw foods such as meat and poultry.

Take care with eggs

DON’T use raw eggs in uncooked or lightly cooked foods such as home-made mayonnaise, mousse,

Cake icing and hollandaise sauce. Use pasteurised egg instead.

If you’re thinking of catering for a large function from your own home, the best advice is "Make sure you can do it safely".