Setting up a mobile food business
If you are planning to start a mobile food business where the mobile will be stored overnight at an address in Babergh or Mid Suffolk this is what you need to do.
Do I need to let anyone know of my plans?
Yes you do. You will need to register as a food business with Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s Food and Safety Team. You are also advised to contact Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s Development Management (Planning) Team, the local Highways Authority, and the Police.
It may seem a bit over the top for a simple mobile food premises!
But planning and street trading restrictions mean you could risk being moved on from your chosen trading location or even being subject to enforcement action if you have not obtained the necessary permissions.
When I am not trading, can I park my van/trailer wherever I like?
Not necessarily. When not in use your van or trailer is likely to be kept in a different place to where you normally trade. This is often your home address. Planning permission may be required to store the mobile at your home address if this would amount to a ‘change of use’ of your property or affect the character of the area where you live. Please refer to Development Management (Planning).
Are there any other instances where planning permission may be required?
If you regularly trade on land which is privately owned, even if you have permission from the landowner, planning permission may be required, as this may also be seen as a change of use of that land. In both cases you should seek advice from Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s Development Management (Planning) Team. Most mobile food premises trade on the public highway. In this case consent should be sought from the Highways Department at Suffolk County Council prior to pitching your van or trailer.
Other issues that need to be considered?
One is to ensure that your trading location does not cause an obstruction or nuisance. Whilst your location may appear suitable, your business may indirectly create a nuisance (for example your customers’ parked cars could cause an obstruction). In such circumstances you may be asked to move elsewhere. To reduce the risk of this occurring you are advised to notify the Police of your intentions. You should also be aware of the prohibitions and restrictions on street trading that apply in certain areas.
Once you have addressed all the issues above you need to consider how you will comply with food safety legislation.
How should the mobile be fitted out?
- You need to ensure that the design, construction and condition of your mobile enables it to be kept clean. Surfaces in contact with food must be in sound condition and be easy to clean (made of smooth, washable, corrosion-resistant, and non-toxic materials).
- You must also have an adequate supply of potable water, and appropriate means of disposing of waste.
- You must have facilities for washing hands which are provided with hot and cold water, soap and hygienic drying facilities. It is best practice to have hot and cold (or appropriately mixed) running water. However if this is not possible then other arrangements such as provision of an urn for heating water and containers of cold water for mixing are acceptable. Hand washing facilities must be separate from the facilities for washing utensils and equipment.
Do I need formal training in food hygiene?
In most cases yes, although if you are an experienced caterer this may be sufficient. You must have an adequate knowledge of food safety to ensure that you handle food safely. If you are in any doubt contact the Food and Safety Team for advice. Babergh and Mid Suffolk run the Level 2 Award in Food Safety in Catering on a regular basis. If you will have other food handlers working with you then training them in your documented food safety management system may be adequate.
The documented food safety management system
This is a document that covers all the food safety hazards relevant to your operation along with the controls you will put in place to prevent them. Whilst you can produce your own food safety management system from scratch if you prefer, the Food Standards Agency has produced an easy to use document called Safer Food Better Business which you can download from the FSA website . You fill the blanks in the Safe Methods to personalise the document to your business and complete the diary every day that you trade to demonstrate that you are putting the Safe Methods into practice. When you are inspected you will be given a Food Hygiene Rating. Ratings are available to the public via the FHRS website and you will be given a sticker to display on the mobile. It is particularly important that your documented food safety management system is in place and being put into practice as without this your rating will be at best ‘1 – Major Improvement Necessary’. If you need any advice ahead of your first inspection to ensure that you get a good rating, officers from the Food and Safety Team will be happy to assist. If you are registered with Babergh or Mid Suffolk but always trade outside of the districts then responsibility for issuing a hygiene rating may be transferred to another local authority.
- You are required to provide information to your customers on allergenic ingredients in the food you sell. Information on how to comply is available on the Trading Standards website
- You must ensure that raw foods and ready to eat foods are stored and handled separately to prevent cross-contamination. Detailed advice is available on the FSA website
- You may wish to consider joining the National Caterers Association as a source of advice and support.
All of the Suffolk local authorities are participating in Eat Out Eat Well which is a healthy eating award scheme. You do not have to sell exclusively healthy foods to be eligible for an award as long as you offer some healthy choices. Food businesses with a rating of 3, 4 or 5 under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme are eligible to apply and there is no charge for the assessment.
You must comply with health and safety legislation, for example by making sure gas and electric appliances have been installed by a competent person and are maintained so they are safe to use. Advice is available from the HSE website