There are many rules to follow, so wake up and smell the coffee to avoid getting caught out.

It’s helpful to know which regulations apply to your business, to take them into account for your operation. Without a clear understanding, you could face legal action, fines or criminal sentences.

This guide discusses the critical regulations for selling coffee in the UK. These include:

  • Coffee and coffee products
  • Registration
  • Food hygiene rating scheme
  • Food safety

The regulations for selling coffee in the UK are:

Coffee and coffee products

One of the first critical regulations for selling coffee you should consider is The Coffee and Coffee Products Regulations 1987.

You need to check how you label your coffee products, which will depend on their composition.

To label as:

  • Coffee — the dried seed of the plant (roasted or ground).
  • Coffee and chicory — a mixture of coffee and chicory with no other substances.
  • French coffee — at least 51% coffee, and the rest must be chicory, no other substances.
  • Coffee with fig — at least 85% coffee, and the rest must be fig, no other substances.

Strong regulations are in place for what you can call coffee, they make sure your customers are aware of what they buy. The UK takes their cups of joe seriously, so know your audience and ensure accurate labelling.

Registration

Another crucial regulation for selling coffee in the UK is your registration as a food business. If you sell food or drink without one, you could receive a fine or a prison sentence of up to two years.

You can register as a food business through the UK government portal, which directs you to your local council information. It’s free to do, and there are no refusals, but you should register at least 28 days before you open.

Whichever way you sell your coffee, you’ll still need to register. It covers:

Once you register yourself as a food business, prepare to receive an inspection by your local council.

Food hygiene rating scheme

Your inspection from the council will include a check of your premises to give you a food hygiene rating. This number between 1-5 makes the public aware of the level of hygiene they can expect for your coffee preparation.

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme judges your business on:

  • How you handle food.
  • How you store food.
  • How you prepare food.
  • How clean your facilities are.
  • How well you manage food safety.

Once you’ve got your rating, you’ll receive a sticker to display for customers to see. That can be on your store window or online through a delivery service like Deliveroo, for example.

It’s only compulsory to display your rating in Wales and Northern Ireland. In England, it’s optional.

There’s a similar scheme for businesses in Scotland called Food Hygiene Information.

Instead of a rating between 1-5, the Scottish system issues:

  • Pass — meets the legal requirement for food hygiene.
  • Improvement required — falls below the legal requirements.
  • Exempt premises — low-risk businesses where inspectors found hygiene doesn’t need priority (e.g. newsagents).

Before you receive your Food Hygiene Information visit, you’ll get an ‘Awaiting Inspection’ certificate to display to your customers.

It’s not compulsory to show your rating. Still, all are made available to the public on the Food Standards Scotland site.

Food safety

To make sure you comply with food safety standards, consider a few of the key ones when you sell coffee.

HACCP

One of the critical regulations for selling coffee in the UK is a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan. 

To create a plan, you have to understand the three main types of hazards:

  • Microbiological — harmful bacteria.
  • Chemical — contamination of chemicals.
  • Physical — objects in food or drink.

The Food Standards Agency has a MyHACCP online system that can help you identify the critical hazards in your coffee business to consider.

To put together a HACCP plan, you should:

  • Identity — find what risks there are to food safety.
  • Control points — look for the places and processes with the most risks.
  • Action — minimise the risks through change or monitoring the process.
  • Check — make sure you continue to follow those procedures.
  • Record — keep a safe form of your plan so it’s available for inspections.

Allergens

There are further food safety rules to help keep customers with allergies safe. It’s your responsibility to provide accurate allergy information and manage their use safely.

There are 14 allergens that you legally have to communicate to your customers, so be aware of:

  • Celery
  • Cereals that contain gluten (e.g. oats and barley)
  • Crustaceans (e.g. crabs and prawns)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lupin
  • Milk
  • Molluscs (oysters and mussels)
  • Mustard
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame
  • Soybeans
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites
  • Tree nuts (almonds and pecans)

You’re unlikely to sell prawn coffee, but if you prepare food in the same areas, ensure that you avoid contamination. The main priority is dairy milk and tree nuts if you use alternatives like almond milk.

Either provide allergy information on your menu or labelling. Customers must be able to avoid any dangerous allergic reactions. If you don’t provide information, you could face legal action from customers who suffer as a result.

Traceability 

Your ability to deal with safety issues could depend on the traceability of your supply chain. That’s why there are regulations for selling coffee that require you to document the origins of your ingredients.

You must keep an up to date record of:

  • Suppliers that you buy from.
  • Businesses you supply to.

With your records, you’ll be able to take swift action if any food needs to be withdrawn or recalled

For example, if you buy beans from multiple suppliers, you must know if one finds a safety issue. 

You can dispose of those ingredients with accurate information before you put customers at risk.

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