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Reusable Containers and Cups

Can I accept reusable containers and cups from my customers?

Yes, a food business can choose to accept reusable containers and cups from its customers. However, consideration must be given to the safety implications of this practice.

As a food business operator you have a legal responsibility for ensuring the food you produce and sell is safe.

What must I consider if I accept reusable containers or cups from customers?

If you choose to accept reusable containers or cups you will need to assess the risk involved with this practice as part of your food safety management system.

You need to think about the hygiene implications of such a practice. So for example, your staff should not accept containers or cups that are dirty or in bad condition e.g. cracked or chipped. It is also advisable to wash their hands after completing the transaction.

Would I be liable if a customer fell ill after consuming food or drink from a reusable container or cup?

Your business could be liable if a customer became ill as a result of the overall hygiene within the business, which could potentially be due to accepting reusable containers and cups that were not clean or in good condition (e.g. cracked or chipped).

That is why it is important to consider the risks involved in accepting reusable containers or cups and put in place proper systems to deal with this.

What advice would the FSAI give businesses who wish to implement this practice?

Food businesses who wish to accept reusable containers and cups from customers should consider introducing a policy within their own business to:

  • detail what reusable containers and cups they would accept
  • ensure that customers are made aware that only cups that are clean and in suitable condition will be accepted
  • ensure that both staff and customers are clear on what is acceptable so there is no confusion on either side
  • ensure adequate hand washing by staff where they are accepting containers or cups from customers that may introduce contamination to the food business

Where in legislation is this covered?

While the use of reusable containers and cups is relatively new, the food hygiene legislation (Regulation (EC) 852/2004) which applies to all food businesses, would regulate this practice in a food business.

This legislation covers all aspects of hygiene in a food business, including hand washing, personal hygiene and the condition and cleanliness of crockery, utensils and equipment coming into contact with food.

It also places the responsibility on the food business operator for the safety of the food they produce and sell.

The food business would need to risk assess the practice of accepting reusable containers and cups and incorporate it into its food safety management system, which is a requirement under the food hygiene legislation.