Trading Standards Institute Advice

Working from home

This leaflet is for all food and catering businesses that run from home, and for anyone who produces food and food products at home or who serves food at home as part of their work.

What does working from home mean?
Many people start their business from home, avoiding the costs and responsibility that comes from running separate business premises. Smaller catering businesses, such as those baking or decorating cakes, making confectionery, and specialised food stuffs such as pickles and preserves, suit home working. If you run a business which provides food as a part of your service, such as child minding, you must also meet and keep to food safety laws.

Registering your food business
As the owner of the business you must fill in a form to register your business with your local authority. The form asks you for some basic information about yourself and the kind of food business you want to run, including where you want to run your business from (your home address).

It is free for you to register your business, and you must do it at least 28 days before you start trading.

Once you have registered your business, an environmental health officer may visit you and give you advice on the best way for you to make sure that your business complies with food-safety regulations. They will carry out a risk assessment of your business and based on the results, will decide how often they need to visit and inspect you in the future. Environmental health officers will usually give you at least 24 hours' notice before they visit a home-based business.

Food safety management systems
Like all food businesses you must have a written food safety management system.

A food safety management system helps you identify where and how the safety of the food you produce could be put at risk. It should state how you intend to manage these hazards and the controls you have in place.

If you run a smaller business, an easy way of doing this is to use the Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) pack which you can get from the Food Standards Agency (FSA). There is a range of SFBB packs available, for different food businesses, including caterers, retailers and childminders.

The system is basic and you may decide that you want to add to it or design your own. You can use any well-designed system that follows the HACCP (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points) principles. You do not have to use the SFBB pack but for small businesses it does provide an easy and ready to use option.

You can also contact your local authority environmental health service for advice.

A well-kept food preparation area

Your food preparation area must be easy to clean and you must keep it in a clean and safe condition. You should use smooth hard surfaces for worktops and avoid areas where food may build up and be difficult to clean.

You should have enough room for the amount of food you need to store and prepare. This is to make sure that you don't mix up raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods in the same area at the same time and increase the risk of cross contamination.

You should think of raw food as dirty, and ready-to-eat and cooked food as clean. You need to separate the two and always work from raw to cooked food. If you have enough space, you could have separate areas for raw and cooked food. You can also keep raw and cooked food separated by cleaning and disinfecting work areas between handling raw and cooked foods.

You should also keep raw and cooked food separate wherever it is stored, such as in fridges and freezers.

You could use different coloured equipment, such as chopping boards and knives for raw and cooked food, to help you keep them separated and prevent cross-contamination.

A sink with hot and cold water
If you're working from home you may wish to use the same sink to prepare food and for washing your hands. Your local authority will decide whether you need to install a separate wash hand basin based on the type of food business you intend to run. However, you must provide suitable liquid antibacterial hand soap and clean paper towels wherever you wash your hands.

If you use outbuildings to prepare and store food:

  • they must be designed and fitted to minimise the risk of contamination
  • you must protect them against pests
  • you must not use them for anything else
  • you must have suitable storage facilities for your frozen, chilled and dry food
  • you must keep all your storage areas clean, free from pests and separate from the storage areas you have for cleaning materials

You should attend a food safety training course yourself and provide training in food safety to anyone handling food, and the training should be relevant to the work they do.

The type of training you require will depend on the types of foods you intend to prepare. You should contact your local Environmental Health Department for specific advice.

Protective clothing
You and your staff should always wear suitable protective clothing, and should wear it only in food preparation areas. You and your staff should also have access to first-aid materials including brightly coloured (usually blue for food use) waterproof dressings.

Pets and food preparation areas
You must always keep any pets away from food preparation areas, especially when preparing food and using the kitchen for your business.

A checking and cleaning routine
You will need to check and clean your kitchen every time before you start using it for business (for example, the 'opening checks' in the SFBB system).

Getting rid of your rubbish
Your business may produce a lot of rubbish and waste, more than a normal household would, and you may have to pay to have this rubbish removed. You could buy commercial rubbish sacks from your local authority or arrange with a private contractor to remove your rubbish. You should contact your local authority for more advice.

More information
You will find further guidance in our other leaflets on this website. Information can also be found on the Food Standards Agency website.

Alternatively, contact your local environmental health service for advice.

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance.

© 2018 itsa Ltd.