Repackaging Food? Let’s get clear on the law
5 THINGS YOU MUST KNOW IF YOU ARE REPACKAGING FOOD
Running your own food business is exciting – whether you are starting from scratch or you’ve taken over a business that is already operating. It is a great feeling when you’ve decided what food you’re repackaging, where you’ll get it from, how you are going to repackage and sell it. You can make your buyers happy and be able to earn a comfortable living.
Selling food and running is a business is a responsibility and so there are things that you need to do. You can kick up a fuss about that and make yourself stressed or miserable about it, or you can see it as one thing that you can tick off the list to get where you want to be. Doing things properly and minimising risk is all part of running a business so best to start off on the right foot.
Let’s Get Started on Repackaging Food Law
To get you started on the right track we’ve put together 5 things you need to know if you want to start and run a business repackaging food with some tips on how you can get them done.
(1) Get Registered
Firstly, make sure that you register your business. Start with registering with HMRC as a business for tax purposes, which means deciding whether you are going to be operating as a :-
• Sole trader
• Limited company
There are pros and cons to all types so don’t just rush into it; spend a little time deciding what’s going to be right for you and your business. Chat it over with an accountant also.
Secondly, make sure you register as a food business with your local authority at least 28 days before you intend to start selling/trading. Practically every food business needs to do this – you can only avoid it if you are doing it on a very small scale and supplying only occasionally. Since there isn’t a clear definition of what this means, register unless it’s a once off or you’ve spoken to the local authority, fully explained your situation and you have received their written confirmation that you don’t need to register (good luck with that!). Looking on the bright side, registration is free, and they can’t refuse you, so there’s really no excuse not to. It also helps you avoid being fined or imprisoned for up to 2 years for running an unregistered food business.
Thirdly, whilst this isn’t quite registration, make sure that if you are repackaging from home you tell/get permission from your landlord (rented property) or mortgage organisation. After all you don’t want to find you’re being changed to a commercial business mortgage on your home because you didn’t let them know!
(2) Health and safety – Hygiene Standards For Repackaging Food
Food hygiene is important – nobody wants to be responsible for making someone ill (or worse). We all have different ideas of hygiene, health and safety so the law sets out some standards which all food businesses need to meet. Some of this may seem like common sense but it takes time to understand and get used to.
It works on the basis that all food that you sell must be safe to eat. So as a starting point, food must be
• Exactly what it says it is – you can’t, for example, say something is chocolate when it doesn’t contain any chocolate and/or when it’s chocolate flavoured
• Hygienically made and packed
• Hygienically stored and transported.
These rules mean having a food safety management system/process in place. We’re great fans of processes and systems because once you’ve worked out your system/process and written it down, it’s easier to
• Know what you must do
• Show other what they have to do
• Prove what you do
Start your food safety management system/process by getting to understand the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles which involve you
• deciding where problems could occur and what risks there are (a risk assessment)
• identifying the areas you need to focus on to remove risks or reduce them to a safe level
• deciding what you need to do (action) – include it in your food safety management process/system
• Follow your food safety management process/system
• Keeping records to show your process/system works to keep things safe
Now if, at this stage, you are starting to panic – don’t! Of course, you could have a complicated system if you want one (can’t think why you’d want one – but you could!) but you only need something straight forward and simple. We find that the easier a system or process is – the easier it is to follow and stick to.
As tempting as it may be to buy a ready-made system for repackaging food and use it without question, make sure you spend a bit of time making sure it works for you. Use a ready-made system as a basis but adapt it so it really works for you and your business because it’s the only way you will stick to it and feel comfortable about it.
(3) Labelling Repackaged Food
The fact that you don’t make the food doesn’t make labelling any less important. If you are repackaging food, it is just as important to get the labelling right. A best case scenario, getting labelling wrong can get you fined and at worst case bad labelling will see you being
• sued by the person who you have made ill and/or
• detained in prison
Correctly labelled food means labelling food in accordance with the law.
(a) Size matters
Firstly, food labels need to be a specific size – that means both the label and the size and font you use. The whole idea is to make it easy for someone to read it comfortably and without the aid of a magnifying glass.
Whatever food you are selling, the law says labels must contain certain information, including
• Description of the food
• List of ingredients (descending order by weight so the ingredient that there’s most of goes first)
• Allergens – anything listed as an allergen needs to be in bold type
• Quantity – (the weight/measure)
• Durability – how long the food will safely keep/last – the or “Best before” (or “use by” date, if relevant)
• Storage Conditions – so that food can be kept safely
• Name and Address of the “responsible Food Business Operator”
• Instructions for Use – if not having instruction could make using it difficult
• Batch or Lot Numbers – to aid traceability.
Some other foods need additional information. For example, you may need to include the country of origin (where it came from) or the quantity of certain ingredients, alcoholic content or nutrition labelling.
(4) Insurance For Repackaging Food
Insurance is vital to protect you against
• Causing injury – food making someone ill
• Foreign bodies (e.g. plastic in your sweets)
• Damaging a buyer’s property (packaging splits too easily)
• Making any mistake
There are various types of insurance including
• Public liability cover – to cover/protect you if someone is injured or their property was damaged
• Product liability – if someone complains about a specific product
• Business interruption – when you can’t work because something goes wrong (like you’re ill).
There are also other types of insurance that you need to think about whether you have business premises, or work from home.
(5) Get online selling right
If you are selling online you must make sure that your buyers get the same information as if they were able to come into a shop, look at the food, and ask the server questions. This is particularly important for labelling and applies whether you, for example, sell
• From your own website
• Via a platform, like Facebook.
Once you start giving someone food in exchange for money (selling!), almost without exception you accept all the responsibility for the food you sell.
Again, make it complicated if you want to, but having some simple “rules” in place will allow you to sell safely and knowing that you are following the rules. Following the rules about giving customer’s the right information (including their rights as a consumer will help you build your customer’s trust because they will feel you care about what you are doing and help you avoid getting fined or imprisoned!
Don’t let this happen to you
Knowing about these 5 things and doing something about them will help you run a successful and profitable business.
The Food Standard Agency (FSA) regularly investigate businesses who sell food, including on Facebook. Look at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51475289 . As that article says, “if something goes wrong with this food”, the sellers would be in a “terrible mess personally, about the consequences for them and the risk that they’re posing to other people”. In reality, that means formal notices to stop, fines and even court action which is surely something you want to avoid.