Trading Standards Institute Advice

Selling and preparing food at farmers' markets and market stalls

This leaflet is for all food businesses planning to sell food and food products or prepare food products for farmers' markets and other market stalls.

Registering your business
While in the early stages of planning your business, you should contact your local environmental health and trading standards services for advice. They are there to help you.

You should check with your environmental health service to find out whether you need to register your business. You do not have to pass a test or pay a fee.

Registering your business is a simple way of letting your local authority know that you run a food business. You do not have to register every site you are going to operate from, only the premises such as the farm, smallholding or business unit where you keep or prepare food.

Your stall at the market may be inspected by environmental health and trading standards officers.

High-risk and low-risk business
Normally, producing and selling items such as cakes and jams has few risks and most people safely produce these products at home.

When you make high-risk foods and pre-packed meals you need to keep to certain regulations and there are serious penalties that can be applied if you don't. High-risk foods are those that don't need extra cooking before eating and which bacteria can multiply easily on. These products include:

  • hams
  • pâtés
  • pies
  • lasagne
  • other meat and fish dishes
  • cheese, ice cream and yoghurt

Food safety laws dictate that where you prepare the food and how you prepare it must meet certain conditions. Your home or premises may not be able to meet these conditions and you may need to operate somewhere else.

For more information about this, it is important that you speak to your local environmental health department before you go any further.

Food safety management systems
So that the food you supply to consumers is produced as safely as possible, by law you must show that you have a system in place that identifies and deals with possible dangers and hazards. These hazards could be biological, chemical or physical and you must pay attention to ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction to your customers. Your business must be able to show that it uses and monitors controls to reduce the chance of problems happening.

For a small to medium-sized business, an easy way of doing this is by using the Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) package which you can get from the Food Standards Agency (FSA). There is a range of SFBB packs available that are designed to meet the needs of different food businesses. There are packs for small catering businesses, retail businesses, and restaurants and takeaways that serve different types of food, such as Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan.

If you use an SFBB pack, this will mean you can show records as evidence that you have taken measures to make sure that you have produced, prepared, stored, transported, displayed and served food safely.

Although it is not a legal requirement for every food handler to get a certificate in food hygiene, they must be able to show that they have had some food-hygiene training or are being supervised by someone who has.

This is to make sure that food handlers know the dangers and follow good practice to reduce the possibility of contamination.

If you are manufacturing food you will need some specific training and food-safety training courses are recommended. A Level 2 Food Safety in Catering certificate would be required as a minimum.

Awarding organisations for food safety courses
Various organisations accredit food-safety courses at all levels and award the certificates. Food safety training companies are registered to run courses on their behalf. 

The individual organisations can tell you about training companies near you. These organisations include the following companies:

You may find that your local market needs proof that you have had enough training before letting you trade.

You must protect food you take to a market from contamination. Any vehicles you use need to be clean and in good working order.

If the vehicles you use are also used for something else, you should make sure that anything else you carry in the vehicles, such as chemicals, fuel or animals, does not come into contact with food.

You need to wrap food you put in vehicles, or put it in suitable containers. You should use metal or plastic crates for bakery products and meats.

Controlling food temperature
To stop bacteria multiplying, you must keep soft or semi-hard cheeses, dairy products, cooked meat, most smoked or cured meat, fish, shellfish and some vegetable products cold - below 8oC (preferably below 5oC).

You should use a refrigerated vehicle for this, but insulated containers with ice packs may be suitable depending on how long you will be travelling and displaying these items for sale.

You should use a food thermometer or a probe to make sure you keep food cold enough. The temperature will need to be checked from time to time.

By law, food that should normally be kept cold can be kept out of the fridge for up to four hours, although ideally you should not keep it out of the fridge for more than one hour.

You should check food throughout the day to make sure it remains safe. You should record the temperatures taken at each stage so that you have some evidence that you are managing food safety properly.

You must prepare and display food on a suitable surface. The surface should be:

  • smooth so you can clean it easily
  • non-absorbent so that water and bacteria cannot soak into it
  • hard-wearing if you are using it for chopping or cutting

If you are going to use a wooden table for storage or display you should cover it with plastic or other waterproof material. Never put food directly on the floor.

Keep raw foods away from cooked foods and prevent customers from touching, coughing or sneezing on them.

Some markets have their own rules about free food samples and they may not allow them. By law, these samples are still seen as a sale and must keep to the same controls. The risk is food may be out of the fridge for long periods, so don't have too many displayed samples and throw away any food that has been out of the fridge for too long.

You will probably need to use extra controls to protect food from being handled too much. You should use tongs, disposable spoons and forks or cocktail sticks to help prevent contamination from your customers from touching the food. 

Keep your display area clean and tidy. 

Make sure that you or the market has somewhere to get rid of waste food, liquids and other waste.

Food handlers must keep themselves and their clothes clean. Stallholders selling open foods must be able to wash their hands with hot water, soap and disposable towels and there should be some way of getting rid of used towels. 

A basin used to wash hands must not be used for anything else such as for preparing and washing vegetables.

You shouldn't handle food unless you have to and you should always wash your hands properly:

  • after you handle raw food
  • before you handle cooked food
  • after you get rid of waste
  • after you use the toilet
  • after you take a break

If you or your staff have had any symptoms of food poisoning, do not prepare or serve food until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped.

If you have a skin, nose or throat infection, do not handle unwrapped food.

You should cover any cuts, spots or sores with a blue waterproof plaster.

You can use disposable gloves but you must remember that you are protecting the food from you, not protecting you from the food. So, you should change gloves as often as you would wash your hands and make sure that you have a good supply of gloves available so that you can change them regularly.

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.