Food safety laws: a guide to your legal responsibilities

pub food safety cutleryAs a pub landlord you must take a meticulous approach to food safety in order to meet your legal obligations.

Ultimately, it’s about the customer. They should be able to enter your pub and order food (or drink) without concern about hygiene standards.

Abiding by food safety laws – and the principles that underpin them – means your customers can wine and dine safely without worry.

Here are 7 food safety essentials you need to cover in order to fulfil your food safety responsibilities:

1. Register your food operation

You must register (for free) with your local authority 28 days before the first day of trading.

2. Appoint an appropriate ‘Food Safety Manager’

clipboard-1067035_640You must elect somebody to be responsible for developing and maintaining the pub’s food safety management procedures.

It’s the pub owners responsibility to ensure this person has sufficient relevant training. That could be the chef, or that might even be you.

(Need to find a chef? Here’s a rundown of your free recruitment options.)

The food safety manager should give guidance and training to anyone else who will be handling food.

These other food handlers don’t require any certification.

3. Abide by HACCP principles

This is legally-binding legislation from the European Union which sets the standards for food safety practices.

It covers a lot of ground and it’s vital that you follow its guidelines and have systems in place to do so. Your allocated food safety manager will be responsible for ensuring you comply with the legislation.

Up-to-date records must be kept on site to prove you are meeting your HACCP requirements. These records should include relevant training, food temperatures, pest control and the monitoring of deliveries.

It’s all about ensuring you run a healthy, hygienic and safe food operation.

The Food Standards Agency provide a useful food safety management tool which guides you through the process of setting up a food safety management system based on HACCP principles.

HACCP, incidentally, stands for ‘Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point’.

4. Ensure food descriptions are accurate

frog-927768_640Food descriptions on menus, adverts and chalkboards – and when given verbally – must not be false or misleading.

Important descriptions which could trip you up, include:

  • Fresh: which cannot be from a can or from frozen.
  • Onion rings: which must be made with rings of onion, not chopped onion piece mixed with potato.
  • Homemade: which has to be made on site.
  • Suitable for vegetarians: which cannot contain any animal products.

Check out the Trading Standards’ guide to food labelling for caterers.

5. Manage and label good allergens

It’s a legal requirement for you to be aware of, and make clear to the public, the presence of allergens in your food.

As a result of changes in food safety law, you must now list on the menu any allergens present in your food. You must also be aware of how the law extends to your drinks range where potential allergens include: sulphur dioxide, wheat, rye and barley.

These new rules are designed to protect the estimated 21 million people in the UK who have food allergies. It will be policed by Trading Standards officers and failure to comply can lead to prosecutions and fines.

HACCP guidelines include measures for avoiding allergen contamination. 

Visit the Food Standards Agency website for full food allergy training. 

6. Manage and label GM foods

eggplant-149980_640If you sell genetically modified (GM) food or your food contains GM ingredients you are legally required to let your customers know this.

Keep your staff informed and write it clearly on the menu.

The three main GM ingredients currently available in the UK are:

  • GM soya;
  • GM maize;
  • GM tomatoes – in tomato puree. 

Read the full GM labelling guide from the Food Standards Agency.

7. Disposing of oil

You must store cooking oil safely and arrange for it to be picked up by an authorised collector registered with the Environment Agency.

Oil must not be poured down drains or sewers as this can lead to blockages, attract vermin and may pollute rivers, streams and other waterways leading to environmental damage.

Failure to comply can lead to prosecution.


As a pub landlord you have a legal obligation to abide by food safety laws. However, you should also be passionate about providing a safe eating (and drinking) experience for your customers.

Why not join the FSA’s Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme to demonstrate your commitment?