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Food hygiene and the law

Before you start a new catering or other food business, or before starting to use new establishments, you must register all of your establishments with our environmental health service. You must do this at least 28 days before you start trading.

You may also need to have your establishments approved if you supply another business with:

  • meat and meat products
  • eggs
  • milk and dairy products
  • fish and fish products

We will also be able to advise you about how the law applies to your business in practice. Your establishments will be inspected by enforcement officers to make sure you are complying with the law. You will not usually be given notice of an inspection.

When they think it is necessary, inspectors can take enforcement action to protect the public, including:

  • serving a hygiene improvement notice if you are breaking the law, which sets out certain things you must do to comply
  • serving a hygiene emergency prohibition notice which forbids the use of establishments or equipment
  • recommending a prosecution, in serious cases

Food hygiene regulations set out the basic hygiene requirements for all aspects of your business and require you to make sure that:

  • your establishments meet hygiene standards
  • staff follow good personal hygiene practice
  • food safety problems are identified and controlled as part of your food safety management procedure
  • staff receive adequate instruction and/or training in food hygiene, and are supervised
  • food is kept at a safe temperature
  • you keep written records of how you manage food safety hazards

You should be aware that food businesses - except farmers - are required to put in place food safety management procedures based on the principles of HACCP (hazard analysis critical control point). In practice, this means that you must have documented procedures in place to manage food safety hazards in your business.

Hand washing

The single most important procedure for preventing the spread of infections is proper hand washing, yet many people still fail to carry out this simple task. Infection control in hospitals has been the focus of much media attention recently and campaigns have been put in place to increase awareness and improve the hand hygiene of health care workers. What we must remember is that hand hygiene is as important in our every day life as it is in a hospital environment.

Why is it so important?

It is normal for a population of harmless micro-organisms to be carried on our hands at any time; however activities in our every day life such as handling raw meat or visiting the toilet can significantly increase the presence of more harmful ones. You are not only able to infect yourself, for instance by touching your nose, eyes or mouth with contaminated hands but you can pass them on to others via the surfaces and food that you touch.
These micro-organisms are so small that you are unable to see them with the naked eye. The harmful ones can be the cause of illnesses like vomiting, diarrhoea, colds and flu as well as much more serious illnesses such as E.Coli 0157, which can prove fatal.

How important is hand washing in food preparation?

Failure to wash your hands before preparing a meal means that anything present on your hands can be transferred onto the food, work surfaces and utensils that you touch. Food poisoning can result from eating food contaminated with harmful micro-organisms which have been allowed to multiply to dangerous levels. You will be unable to tell from its appearance, taste or smell that food is contaminated. It can take some time for symptoms of food poisoning to develop, which can include vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fever and they can last for several days.

How do you wash your hands correctly?

It may sound very simple but many people fail to wash their hands as thoroughly as they should do. Do you follow all these steps?
Wet your hands with warm running water
Put soap on to your hands.
Rub hands together, making sure you pay particular attention to the areas between your fingers and thumb, around your nails and both the front and back surfaces of your hand. This should take a minimum of 15 seconds
Thoroughly rinse hands under warm running water
Dry hands completely with a clean towel, disposable paper towel or a hot air dryer

When should you be washing your hands?

Before preparing a meal
Before eating a meal
Before tending to a cut or wound
Before inserting and taking out contact lenses
After handling raw meat
After handling animals
After changing a baby
After visiting the toilet

Prosecutions register

A public register of prosecutions is maintained detailing details of prosecutions and formal cautions issued in the last three years.

Where can I get further information on food safety

You can get further information on all matters relating to food safety from the Food Standards Agency website

You can also contact us for specific advice at the address below.

  • Food and Trading Standards, 4 Ednam Road, Dudley, West Midlands DY1 1HL
    Telephone: 0300 555 2345

  • Monday to Friday, 8.45 am to 5.00 pm, Please note that the offices are closed at weekends and Bank Holidays