Industry sector: Retail and wholesale

Milk round: Food safety

You must be aware of relevant food safety legislation and you must register your business with the local authority environmental health department.

The Food Safety Act

Food safety law is complex and there are many specific regulations. These are all concerned with ensuring that food which is sold is safe to eat. The main pieces of legislation are the Food Safety Act and the Food Hygiene Regulations, which cover all aspects of food preparation, storage and sale.

You will need to manage hygiene systematically throughout the business. Premises, vehicles and any equipment used must be of an appropriate design and standard. Cleanliness and good personal hygiene must be observed at all times and training may be required. You will need to put in place food safety management procedures based on HACCP principles. HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point and is a system used to identify possible food safety problems and to put in place procedures to stop these happening. You can find out more about HACCP on the Food Standards Agency website.

All food businesses must be registered with the local authority environmental health department. An officer will visit your site and will be able to give you guidance on the steps you need to take to comply with food safety legislation.

Regulations concerning milk and dairy products

The Food Hygiene Regulations include special requirements for the production, heat treatment and marketing of milk and dairy products. Most of these apply mainly to dairy establishments, but some will be relevant to roundsmen too.

The type of milk that can be sold is regulated - for example, there are restrictions on the sale of raw (unpasteurised) milk although these may be reviewed in the future. In Scotland the sale of raw milk is banned. There are also requirements that temperature controls are observed for certain products (for example milk, yoghurt and cream). The description and labelling of dairy products is also closely controlled.

Organic milk and dairy products can only be sold as 'organic' if they have been produced by a registered organic producer. Contact the Soil Association for more information.

Although no longer an official system, the colour of milk bottle tops remains a widely recognised way of identifying the type of milk contained in the bottle.

If you deal with other products such as eggs or ice cream, you should be aware of any special requirements that apply. For example, you must not sell eggs that contain any visible cracks. Regulations also cover the information that must be given to customers, such as a 'best before' date, and storage instructions.

Your local authority environmental health department will be able to advise you about all food safety, hygiene matters and the regulations with which you must comply.

Various helpful publications, including the free Safer food better business pack and Safe catering (Northern Ireland), are available from the Food Standards Agency. You can order publications through the Food Standards Agency publications orderline on 0845 606 0667 or you can visit the Food Standards Agency website.