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Street food: The hygiene challenges

07 February 2020

The huge popularity of street food in the UK highlights the need for continuing high standards of hygiene.

The variety of food and drink now on offer from street food is extensive and fits into our ever-growing appetite for new tastes, sustainable sourcing and the demand for vegetarian or vegan options. It has shaped our eating-out experiences and has influenced the menus of the more traditional high street restaurants. This growth does however generate challenges for the licensing authorities and the vendors to ensure that food content is labelled correctly and that it is prepared to the correct standards of hygiene.

The Nationwide Caterers’ Association (NCASS) is specialist trade association for food & drink caterers in the UK, supporting independent business owners to be safe, legal and profitable. One their main concerns is that some street food traders handle high risk foods without access to basic hand washing facilities.
To protect the public and the mobile catering industry, NCASS has developed specific advice for street food traders to make them aware of the hazards associated with the food they sell and the processes that they follow.

There are solutions that can be easily introduced with affordable portable hand washing units that can be placed next to food preparation areas. These can simply solve the hygiene requirement and the benefits are highlighted in the NCASS ‘The five reasons why you need a handwashing unit’.
1. It’s a legal obligation
The legislation is very clear on hand washing when operating ANY food business. It states that:
A separate hand washing facility must be provided 
It must have hot and cold (or appropriately mixed running water)
Alcohol gels are not acceptable on their own but can be used in addition to a hand washing system
Materials should be available for cleaning hands (i.e. anti-bacterial soap)
Materials should be available for drying hands (i.e. paper towels – not a tea towel)

2. You’re less likely to give someone food poisoning The legislation on hand washing is there to stop food poisoning and therefore making someone very ill and at worse dying. If you don’t follow these principles and are found guilty of causing a food poisoning incident the maximum penalty is 2-year custodial sentence and an unlimited fine.

3. You won’t get a good Food Hygiene Rating score
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is now a legal obligation in Wales; all food businesses must display their score and is likely to be implemented in England and Northern Ireland. If you don’t have a separate hand washing unit then you are clearly breaking the law and at best, you will not score well and at worst could be closed.

4. It makes customers more likely to buy your food
When running a mobile or street food business the customers can see what you’re doing, and your food hygiene practices. If customers can see that you’re regularly washing your hands, they know that you care about the food you sell and those who eat it. Therefore, they’re more likely to buy your food.

5. It improves the image of the industry
By operating properly, you will be playing your part in changing the face of the industry and should see the continued growth of the industry for the benefit of all.
It’s a solution that Teal are very used to providing as their range of sinks are supporting businesses throughout the UK from street food suppliers, retailers, farmers’ markets, kiosks, outside catering and fast food outlets to ice cream vendors, coffee kiosks and sandwich bars.