This NUT guidance has been prepared to highlight the health and safety hazards which can exist in the absence of clear policies and procedures on the safe preparation of food in schools. It covers a range of issues which need to be addressed when carrying out risk assessments and writing safety policies for food preparation areas, including a detailed examination of the main circumstances in which food and drink are likely to be prepared, served and consumed in schools.
It should be made clear at the outset that nothing whatsoever in this briefing should be interpreted as being in conflict with either the letter or the spirit of the School Meals Agreement 1968, which repealed regulations previously enabling local authorities to require teachers to supervise pupils taking school meals. The 1968 Agreement acknowledged that any supervision of pupils during the midday break was voluntary, and that consequently there was no contractual obligation on any teacher to undertake supervision during the midday break. Furthermore, the Agreement established that any teacher volunteering to undertake such supervision should be entitled to a free school meal.
>The Legal Framework
There are many laws and regulations concerning the preparation and serving of foods.
The Food Safety Act 1990, and subsequent regulations, covers all the operations involved in selling, possessing for sale, delivering, preparing, labelling, storing, importing and exporting food. Under this Act, it is an offence to sell any food which fails to meet safety requirements. Enforcement officers, e.g. Environmental Health Officers, have powers to inspect premises, check hygiene practices and the quality of food offered, detain or seize suspect food and ask a Justice of the Peace (JP) to condemn it. If food is found to be suspect, they can issue various forms of improvement or enforcement notices/orders, and offenders can be prosecuted and awarded penalties by the courts which include both fines and custodial sentences. Compensation may also be payable to injured parties.
The main offences are:
• selling, or possessing for sale, food which does not comply with food safety requirements; • rendering food injurious to health;
• selling, to the purchaser's prejudice, food which is not of the nature or substance or quality demanded; and • falsely or misleadingly describing or presenting food.
School kitchens are clearly covered by this legislation. However, the Act does not cover food prepared in the home for domestic purposes, and it is generally accepted that school food technology rooms producing food for personal or home consumption are similarly exempt.
It should be noted, however, that the definition of ‘selling’ food under the Act includes the supply of food provided it is in the course of a business, whether for profit or not, for example:
• food given as prizes in competitions;
• food regularly made and sold for fundraising;
• food prepared for school events, even where it is given and not sold; • any sort of ‘enterprise’ activities;
• food prepared for school visits, residential activities etc. • production of tuck shop food;
• storage/sale of food ingredients for classroom use.
Activities covered by...