Business, Culture, Food, Resources

Starting a food business in South Africa

You have a great recipe for rusks, you want to sell at the local flea market or perhaps you would like to become a home chef? Whatever your food business may be, our two part article explain the process  into 10 actionable steps for you.

The fundamentals of food safety

Hopefully by now you have discovered that in order to manufacture food in South Africa or open a restaurant or coffee shop, you have to comply with the Hygiene regulation under the Foodstuffs Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, Act 54 of 1972. Yes, the regulation used to be under the Health Act, but it was moved. Of course, it is still a matter of public health concern.

So what does regulation R962 – “Regulations governing general hygiene requirements for food premises and transport” actually say in plain English?

 

1. You must have a valid certificate of acceptablity

You must apply for this certificate at your local department of environmental health. You should have this certificate before you start to trade. Try this link for the contact details: Department of Environmental Health

The best option is to actually go into the offices rather than call.

 

2. Your facility must look like a food facility

Not a scrap yard. It needs to be in an area that doesn’t pose a risk to the processes or the food handled. Open ground can lead to rodent infestation, dust from the neighbor can contaminate the product. If the environment is not idea and you cannot move, you need to apply additional measures to keep the outside from becoming a problem on the inside.

 

The regulation puts the onus on you to protect food by the best available method against contamination or spoilage by poisonous or offensive gases, vapours, odours, smoke, soot deposits, dust, moisture, insects or other vectors, or by any other physical, chemical or biological contamination or pollution or by any other agent whatsoever.

 

The design of a food facility must also be conducive to easy cleaning. The regulation uses the words, smooth, easy to clean, non-porous when describing walls, ceilings and floors. Be careful with tiles as the grout may be porous.

The facility must be adequately ventilated to remove the build up of steam. Any cooking appliances will require extraction hoods. Lighting must also be sufficient. In both cases the national building regulations apply. Kitchens for restaurants must also be of a minimum size for the number of patrons. If you are changing the building or designing a new one – make sure your plans are approved first.

Your facility must also be pest proof – flies and rodents are specifically mentioned. This means keeping them out so there should be no open windows unless these are screened, grates on drains and no opening in walls. Rubber strips on the bottom of doors will further discourage rodents.

Your waste water system must be approved by the EHP. Fat traps should be installed.

There must be a wash up facility for cleaning purposes. NOTE! This is NOT the handwash basin.

3. Enough toilets and handwash basins

You will need to provide the right number of toilets for the employees and the patrons if you have a restaurant. The regulation provides a table with the number of toilets you will need.

Each bathroom must have running hot and cold water, soap – always use liquid soap and a means to dry hands.

Rather use paper towels or adequately powered hot air dryers. Make sure there is a waste bin too. The occupational health and safety act regulations also require you to provide sanitary bins in ladies toilets.

The toilets cannot open directly onto the restaurant or the kitchen/food preparation areas. There must be a lobby/double door configuration at least.

Toilets should obviously be cleaner very regularly and preferably not by kitchen staff. NOTE! There still have to be more handwash basins in the food preparation areas.

4. A place for everything and everything in its place

There should be enough space for all activities in your process. This should be storage areas for food that are separate from storage areas for food and ingredients. Ideally you should keep raw food and any cooked/heat processed products separately.

There must be a specific designated area for waste containers.

There must be a place for staff to change and store their personal clothing away from food handling activities. Staff should not change in the toilets.

5. The right tools for the job

All the equipment used in a food handling facility must be fit-for-purpose. You have to consider that items will be used repeatedly so domestic equipment will not last. Rather spend the money and invest in industrial equipment.

 

Any surface that is in contact with food must not be a source of contamination so these surfaces should be smooth, rust-proof, non-toxic and non-absorbent material that is easy to clean. Wooden chopping boards are not ideal.

Crockery, cutlery and any other utensils must not be chipped or cracked and must be cleaned before used.

 

The second part of our article looks at hygienic practices and the duties of the boss and the food handlers.

 

The fundamentals of food safety

 

In Part 1 of this article you will have discovered that in order to manufacture food in South Africa or open a restaurant or coffee shop, you have to comply with the Hygiene regulation under the Foodstuffs Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, Act 54 of 1972. Yes, the regulation used to be under the Health Act, but it was moved. Of course, it is still a matter of public health concern.

So what does regulation R962 – “Regulations governing general hygiene requirements for food premises and transport” actually say in plain English?

6. How to display, store and transport food

Food must not be stored directly on the floor. This includes all ingredients too. Always store on a pallet or crate to ensure it cannot be contaminated.

 

Food on display must be protected – no fingers, no flies, no dust, no condensation. Look at how you handle a buffet or salad displays in a retail store. Food in storage must also be protected – make sure you cover all containers.

 

Temperature is a critical issue to ensure the safety of your food. Make sure hot is hot and cold is cold. In fact, make sure you keep to the following:

 

 

These temperatures should be monitored regularly and be recorded. Think about it – otherwise how would you prove it when there is an alleged complaint. You will need an accurate thermometer.

 

7. The right PPE for food handlers

While a uniform can be trendy and build your brand, it’s up to you to ensure your food is protected from the people handling it. To this end, it’s up to you to clothe them with proper protective clothing. This clothing is to protect the food primarily so it must be clean and not a source of contamination. If buttons can fall off into your coleslaw, that would be contamination. So, in general we avoid buttons, zips and the like.

White clothing is always the best – you guessed it – it does show the dirt off and then you should wash it frequently. By the way, it is up to YOU to keep it clean, not the employee. Best to use a professional service who have a good reputation in the food industry. You will need more than one set of clothing. Ideally three sets will ensure you have a clean change daily.

Long sleeves are always the best option.

Hair should always be covered – to avoid it falling into food. Yes I know hairnets are not sexy….tough, deal with it and make sure you set a good example.

 

8. The responsibility of the person in charge of the food facility

If your name is on the certificate of acceptability – the buck stops with you!

The law makes you responsible for the following:

• Adhering to the legislation
• Doing the right things to keep flies, other insects, rodents or vermin under control on the food premises;
• Making sure any person working on the food premises is adequately trained in food hygiene and that your staff follow the regulations
• Ensuring waste and waste containers are handled correctly to that it does not create a Nuisance or health hazard
• Keeping the food premises and all facilities, freight compartments of vehicles and containers are clean and free from any unnecessary materials that have a negative effect on the general hygiene of the food premises;
• Supervising staff to ensure that no person handling non-prepacked food wears any jewellery
• Making sure there are no animals around food handling areas
• Esure that there are no unhygienic practices taking place at the facility.
• Make sure no one handles ready-to-consume non-prepacked food with his or her bare hands, unless it is unavoidable for preparation purposes.
• Finally keep records of illness and conditions you and your staff may suffer from as listed in the law which could potentially be transmitted via food.

9. The duties of the food handler

It’s not just you, although obviously, you will be accountable at all times. The law speaks directly to your staff too regarding the following:

Your staff must know that:

Food shall not be handled by any person –
• whose fingernails, hands or clothes are not clean;
• who has not washed his or her hands thoroughly with soap and water or cleaned them in another effective manner –
o immediately prior to the commencement of each work shift;
o at the beginning of the day’s work or after a rest period;
o after every visit to a latrine or urinal;
o every time he or she has blown his or her nose or after his or her hands have been in contact with perspiration or with his or her hair, nose or mouth;
o after handling a handkerchief, money or a refuse container or refuse;
o after handling raw vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat or fish and before
o handling ready-to-use food;
o after he or she has smoked or on return to the food premises; or
o after his or her hands have become contaminated for any other reason.

They also need to know that if they are ill with diarrhea or vomiting, it is best not to come to work. Trust me, you would rather they were not there than risk infecting the entire production or restaurant seating for the day. Don’t forget to keep a record of this though – it’s the law.
Any cuts, abrasions, abscesses or skin condition on their hands and arms should also be immediately reported to you. You will need a first aid box to be able to provide treatment and then gloves to cover the dressing to avoid it landing in your potato salad.
You will need to ensure you staff behave hygienically and therefore do not do any of the following:
• spit in an area where food is handled or on any facility;
• smoke or use tobacco in any other manner while he or she is handling non-prepacked food or while he or she is in an area where such food is handled;
• handle non-prepacked food in a manner that brings it into contact with any exposed part of his or her body, excluding his or her hands;
• lick his or her fingers when he or she is handling non-prepacked food or material for the wrapping of food;
• cough or sneeze over non-prepacked food or food containers or facilities;
• spit on whetstones or bring meat skewers, labels, equipment, or any other object used in the handling of food or any part of his or her hands into        contact with his or her mouth, or inflate sausage casings, bags or other wrappings by mouth or in any other manner that may contaminate the         food;
• walk, stand, sit or lie on food or on non-hermetically sealed containers containing food or on containers or on food-processing surfaces or other        facilities;
• use a hand washbasin for the cleaning of his or her hands and simultaneously for the cleaning of facilities; or
• while he or she is handling food, perform any act other than those referred to above which could contaminate or spoil food.
A long list which is ideally incorporated into a code of conduct which all employees should sign, including you. You might have to use it as a reminder from time to time. Old habits do die hard so expect to be talking about this daily. It’s best to have a formal inspection every day to keep everyone honest.

10. How to transport food hygienically

Finally, the law does address how you transport food. If you have your own vehicles, they are usually covered by your certificate of acceptability. If you use an outsourced provider, please make sure they have certificates of acceptability for their trucks.
Trucks must be clean – obviously. You cannot transport food with any of the following:
• contaminated food or waste food;
• poison or any harmful substance;
• a live animal; or
• any object that may contaminate or spoil the food.

So tackle these 1o items and you are well on your way to compliance with the most basic legal requirement of the country. Even street vendors are required to comply with this one. And when you see your local EHP – please give them a hug!

By Linda Jackson

Source: Food Focus

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