Wondering what food safety due diligence means, and why it’s so important?
In this article, we discuss the definition of the term, current legislation on food safety, and implications for businesses.
Food safety due diligence meaning
Due diligence is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as an “action that is considered reasonable for people to be expected to take in order to keep themselves or others and their property safe”.
When it comes to food safety and hygiene, due diligence refers to the legal defence of a food business operator which involves taking all precautions deemed reasonable to prevent an offence from occurring.
“Reasonable precautions” signifies that everything that could be anticipated by a skilled worker (in the relevant trade/profession) which has the potential to lead to committing an offence has been adequately identified and proper controls have been put in place.
Food hygiene legislation
According to the Food Safety Act 1990, a food safety due diligence defence concerns persons charged who can prove to have taken all reasonable precautions to avoid the commission of the offence by themselves or by a person under their control.
The due diligence defence has been designed to balance protecting consumers against defective/harmful food products with the right of businesses not to be convicted for something they have taken all reasonable precautions to avoid.
In some cases, proving due diligence requires business to show documented evidence such as checks, supervision and inspections. The extent of these can vary according to the size of the company.
Did you know? The Food Safety Act 1990 provides the framework for all food legislation in Great Britain. It’s essentially a document that outlines that businesses must meet in order to protect consumers. Failure to comply with regulations set out by the Food Safety Act 1990 may be considered a legal offence.
How to demonstrate due diligence
Food businesses can demonstrate due diligence by ensuring thorough, up-to-date record keeping of food safety management. It’s all about showing evidence that you have done everything in your power to avoid food safety breaches.
According to the FSA, your food safety management procedures should be based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). This involves looking at what’s done in your business, what could potentially go wrong and if there are any risks to food safety. It also involves identifying critical control points, deciding on corrective actions and maintaining accurate records.
Therefore, a good way to evidence food safety due diligence is to follow and record an HACCP-based system. You must ensure that your systems are suitable and sufficient for effectively preventing food hygiene incidents.
Did you know? HACCP was first utilised by the Pillsbury Company in the 1960s to produce the safest, highest quality food possible for astronauts in the space program.
It’s important that your food safety records cover the following elements:
Food safety due diligence checklists
Performing checks is a key element of due diligence. These checks relate to proper cleaning, maintenance, pest control, and more, highlighting what you’re doing to prevent food safety breaches.
Checklists form the basis of your food safety management system and are therefore needed to evidence due diligence.
Many businesses record their checks on paper-based systems like the Safe Food Better Business Diary. But you can also record your checks digitally in a smart food safety diary - like Hubl.
Hubl features EHO-reviewed checklists that cover essential daily, weekly and monthly tasks. What’s more, it is easy to use, intuitive and eco-friendly, making life easier for hospitality teams and helping them achieve a better food hygiene rating.
Did you know? During an EHO visit, your records and checks will be inspected, which can impact your food hygiene rating.
Due diligence: summary & conclusions
In short, demonstrating food safety due diligence is showing evidence of all the reasonable steps you’ve taken to control hazards and avoid food hygiene breaches. A critical step to achieve due diligence is record keeping - so you have all the information available to you when and where you may need it.
Due diligence, Cambridge Dictionary, Accessed July 2021
Food Safety Act 1990, legislation.gov.uk, Accessed July 2021
The Food Safety Act 1990: A Guide for Businesses, Food Standard Agency, Accessed July 2021