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Operating an on-street food business from your home

There are certain pitfalls associated with operating an on-street food business from your home which must be considered. To assist those operating a food business from home, we have produced a guide to food law for small producers and a factsheet for those operating a food business from home.

Operating an on-street food business from home can present specific problems that you should be aware of.

1. Food can become contaminated due to:

  • Normal domestic activities – there must be proper segregation of the food you are preparing for the on-street set-up and the normal domestic food preparation and activities in your home
  • Poor hygiene – not washing hands properly or frequently enough, particularly after using the toilet, handling refuse, etc., dirty cloths and tea towels, poor cleaning practices, dirty equipment/utensils, etc.
  • Working when ill, particularly when suffering from vomiting/diarrhoea, infected skin wounds, flu, coughing and infections of the mouth, throat, eyes or ears
  • Changing/feeding babies in food preparation areas
  • People or pets entering food preparation areas
  • Flies or other insects can contaminate foods left uncovered
  • Facilities being too small
  • Bacteria can grow in certain ready-to-eat foods such as meat, fish, eggs, etc., if they are left at ambient temperatures.

2. Production of too much food for the size of the available work/counter space area in your kitchen.

3. Insufficient/unsuitable refrigerator space to keep food chilled.

4. Lack of equipment necessary to cool food fast enough after cooking.

5. The type of food being produced, or the process involved presents too high a risk to take place safely in a domestic kitchen.

6. Food may be supplied to a vulnerable group, e.g., babies and young children, pregnant women, the elderly or immunocompromised.

7. Insufficient/unsuitable transport to and facilities at the on-street set-up to ensure the correct temperatures of hot and cold food are maintained until the food is handed over to the service user.

Producing food in your home for many people to eat is a serious undertaking and is not the same as cooking for the family. Unlike making food for your family, which will be served and eaten immediately; producing food for onward distribution and service at a later time, brings with it additional food safety risks. This is why it is important to maintain the highest level of hygiene and food safety at all times.

There must be proper separation between food preparation and cooking for onward distribution and the normal domestic food preparation and activities you carry out in your home.

Anyone producing food in their home for onward distribution and service at a later time, is obliged to comply with the legal requirements of a food business. By law, you are a food business, whether the food you produce is for profit or not. You will be entering into a highly regulated business area with serious legal obligations. Food businesses are legally responsible for producing food that is safe to eat.

Not all types of food activity are suitable for carrying out in a domestic kitchen. For example, there are many steps in the preparation of a large casserole or lasagne for eventual service to the homeless on the street. These steps include preparation, cooking, cooling, transport and reheating. At each step, hazards (risks) to the food must be examined and controls must be put in place. In many cases, it is not suitable to prepare such food in the home as specialist equipment may be required to do it safely.

Where food of animal origin, e.g., meat, poultry, eggs, fish, unpasteurised milk, is being processed, you may also need to comply with the legislation setting down specific hygiene rules for foods of animal origin (Regulation 853/2004) and in some cases, the business may require approval by the HSE. For this reason, it is recommended that food prepared in the home is limited to soups, sandwiches and baked goods (or similar). Some charities and volunteer food organisations have found that commercial food kitchens will provide hot meals on a charitable basis which may be used to supplement food prepared in a domestic kitchen.

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