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Food Safety

Food Safety Legislation – a Guide for Morris Dancers

Information for sides producing food for the AGM Day of Dance.

The laws that cover food safety affect everyone who supplies food, even morris dancers.

Anyone who sells or provides food is covered by UK food safety legislation, even if they are a charity or other non-profit making organisation.  That means that if your side provides food to other sides, you’re affected by the legislation, even if you don’t sell it to them.

The Food Safety Act 1990 is the most important law which sets out the main requirements in fairly general terms.  It aims to ensure that all food produced for sale is safe to eat.

To support the Act, there are a large number of specific Food Hygiene Regulations which set out how food should be produced, processed, distributed, stored and prepared.  These provide the detailed requirements to ensure that the Act is met.

It is an offence to provide food which does not comply with the food safety requirements of the Act. Food must not have been rendered injurious to health, be unfit for human consumption or be so contaminated that it is unreasonable to expect it to be eaten.

Most offences under the Act could lead to unlimited fines or imprisonment for up to two years. But this would only be likely if food that you had prepared resulted in people falling ill, for instance with food poisoning.

What does all this mean in practice?

Make sure that everyone in your side understands that Food Safety laws do cover them and that food hygiene is very important especially when providing food to others.

Everyone knows how to prepare food safely for themselves at home, but catering for larger numbers can increase the risk of food poisoning.  It’s harder to store large quantities of food properly, it often needs to be made in advance and transported to where it’s going to be eaten and there may be a long gap between preparing the food and eating it.  All these can affect the food and make it unsafe to eat.

When planning an event where you’ll be feeding other people, think about how you’re going to prepare, transport and serve the food.  Make sure that you’ve got everything you need to do it safely.  Think about the type of food and avoid the high risk foods that are more likely to be a problem.

Would it be better not to provide food ourselves?

Don’t be put off by all these requirements,  Most food can be easily prepared and served without problems, as long as you are sensible.  The food hygiene requirements aren’t difficult – they’re really nothing more than applying what you do all the time at home in different circumstances.

Where can I get more advice?

These notes are only to give you the basic requirements and may not cover everything you need to know. The Food Standards Agency provides advice on providing food for community and charity events at The best place to get more detailed information is from your local Environmental Health Officer.  They not only enforce the law, but also give good advice on what you need to do.  You’ll find them in the phone book, listed under your local council.

Food Hygiene – what every morris dancer should know

Basic Food Hygiene Rules

  1. Always wash your hands before handling food and after using the toilet.
  2. Keep yourself clean and always wear clean clothing. If you have face or other makeup make sure that it does not “run”, especially if you sweat in the heat of a kitchen.
  3. Clean as you go. Keep all equipment and surfaces clean.
  4. Prepare raw and cooked food in separate areas, with separate utensils. Keep food covered and either refrigerated or piping hot.
  5. Do not smoke in a food room. It is illegal and dangerous.  Never cough or sneeze over food.  Do not spit.  If you blow your nose, wash your hands immediately.
  6. Keep your hands off food as far as possible.
  7. Ensure waste food is disposed of properly. Keep the lid on the dustbin and wash your hands after putting waste in it.
  8. Ensure cuts and sores are covered with waterproof dressings.
  9. Do not handle food if you are suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting, septic cuts or sores, discharges from the ear, eye or nose, or if you are a carrier of typhoid etc.

Food storage

The regulations covering the storage of food are complicated and what follows is just the basic requirements.  They are intended to ensure that food is kept at the right temperature to prevent the growth of bacteria.

The storage requirements apply to certain “relevant” foods, such as products (including sandwiches) which contain meat, fish, cheese or vegetables.  These must be kept either below 8°C or above 63°C

In addition, some foods have to be kept below 5°C.  These foods include cut soft cheeses, food not receiving further heat treatment, smoked or cured meat and fish especially if some further preparation (slicing) is necessary prior to consumption, plus sandwiches containing any of these foods.

Some foods are not included in these requirements: bread, biscuits, cakes or pastries, dehydrated food, foods in hermetically sealed containers (e.g. cans, bottles), hard cheeses, fruit pies, preserved foods such as jams, chocolate and sugar confectionery, milk, cream etc.

There are some exemptions to these requirements.  For instance food intended to be served hot within two hours of preparation need not be kept at 63°C for that period provided that it is reheated to at least 63°C prior to being served.  Also food intended to be served cold within four hours of preparation may be kept above 8°C or 5°C for that period.

Food premises

There are strict requirements which cover the premises where food is prepared.  Food premises have to be registered with the local food authority unless they are used for less than five days, whether consecutive or not, in any five week period.

This will mean that some halls used by morris dancers will already be registered.  When hiring a hall for a morris event where you will be providing food, it’s worth asking if it is registered,  If it is, then it should meet the required standards for food preparation.

If it isn’t registered, then try to see the kitchen before you hire.  If you are preparing food there, then you need to make sure it is suitable.  The basic requirements are listed below.  These also apply when food is prepared at home to be served elsewhere.  Local Environmental Officers do have some discretion in how they apply to domestic properties, especially if the foods being prepared are low risk.

These are only a summary of the requirements.  Get information if you are unsure about whether premises are suitable.

All premises used for food preparation must:

  • Be in a good condition and state of repair and cleanliness, as should all equipment and utensils, to ensure that there is no risk of contaminating food.
  • Have adequate drainage facilities, a constant and clean water supply, sufficient suitable sinks designated for equipment or food washing only, adequate lighting and ventilation, plus suitably designated and sited waste/refuse areas.
  • Have toilets situated away from food areas, plus sufficient, suitable and accessible hand basins, adequately stocked with soap, nailbrushes, towels and hot & cold water, which must not be used for anything other than washing hands.


Whilst you are not legally obliged to provide allergen information, it makes sense to do so.  The 14 allergens are:

  1. celery
  2. cereals containing gluten – including wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan), rye, barley and oats
  3. crustaceans – such as prawns, crabs and lobsters
  4. eggs
  5. fish
  6. lupin
  7. milk
  8. molluscs – such as mussels and oysters
  9. mustard
  10. tree nuts – including almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts
  11. peanuts
  12. sesame seeds
  13. soybeans
  14. sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if they are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million)

You should also be able to find allergen information on the ingredients labels of everything you purchase.


This advice only covers the basic requirements of the Food Hygiene Regulations in the UK.  If you need more information, contact your local Environmental Health Officer, who you’ll find in the phone book under your local council.  They are there to give advice – use them.

With thanks to George Hensher, Principal Environmental Health Officer, Hastings Borough Council

Last updated: 2019

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