Food Distribution

With so many transport operators involved in the storage, handling and distribution of foodstuffs within the UK and Europe, this section is just an overview of the legislation and facts you should be aware of. 

Food hygiene laws have applied in the UK since January 2006. They affect all food businesses, including caterers, primary producers (such as farmers), manufacturers, distributors and retailers, they are:

  • Regulation (EC) 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs 
  • Regulation (EC) 853/2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin 
  • Regulation (EC) 854/2004 laying down specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption 

The Legislation and general hygiene requirements for all food business operators are laid down in Regulation 852/2004. This regulation also relates to the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption. The legislation introduces a 'farm to fork' approach to food safety, by including primary production (that is, farmers and growers) in food hygiene legislation, for the first time in the majority of cases. 

Registration and approval 

All food business establishments should be registered with the competent authority, such as the Meat Hygiene Service or the local authority environmental health department, depending on the type of business, at least 28 days before food operations take place. 'Food business' means any undertaking, whether for profit or not and whether public or private, carrying out any stage of production, processing and distribution of food. 

Food business establishments that handle food of animal origin must generally be approved by the competent authority. If a business needs approval it does not need to register as well. However, food businesses that only transport food of animal origin need only register. 

HACCP principles 

HACCP stands for 'Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point'. It is an internationally recognised and recommended system of food safety management.  

It focuses on identifying the 'critical points' in a process where food safety problems (or 'hazards') could arise and putting steps in place to prevent things from going wrong. This is sometimes referred to as 'controlling hazards'.  

Keeping records is also an important part of HACCP systems. 

Chilled, Frozen Trailer

The new legislation requires food business operators (except farmers and growers) to put in place, implement and maintain a permanent procedure, or procedures, based on HACCP principles - although the legislation is structured so that it can be applied flexibly and proportionately according to the size and nature of the food business. 'Food business operator' means the natural or legal persons responsible for ensuring that the requirements of food law within the food business are under their control. 

Temperature control requirements 

There also specific additional provisions contained in food hygiene regulations concerning:

  • Chilled foodstuffs - generally food which is likely to support the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms or toxins must be kept at temperatures not exceeding 8°C 
  • Hot foodstuffs - generally foodstuffs which have been cooked or reheated and need to be kept hot to control the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms or toxins must be kept at temperatures at or above 63°C 
  • Direct supply by the producer of small quantities of meat from poultry and lagomorphs (e.g. hares and rabbits) slaughtered on the farm 
  • Restrictions on the sale of raw milk intended for direct human consumption 

Quick Frozen Foodstuffs (QFF) 

The Quick-frozen Foodstuffs Regulations 1990 lay down those quick-frozen foods (but not other frozen foods) must be kept at -18°C ± 3°C during transport. The regulations as amended also require appropriate instruments to indicate or record the air temperature in which quick-frozen foodstuffs are transported. 

Vehicles used for local distribution simply have to be equipped with one or more easily visible thermometers. Other vehicles have to be fitted with a temperature recorder which measures the air temperature and records it, either continuously or at frequent and regular intervals. These instruments must operate to prescribed limits of accuracy, have a display resolution of no more than 1°C and be robust and shockproof. There is no detailed specification or approval procedure. 

Temperature records must be kept for at least a year and produced for inspection upon demand. 

The Quick-Frozen Foodstuffs (England) Regulations 2007 came into force on 1 March 2007. The 2007 regulations carry forward, and consolidate, the existing requirements on conditions that must be fulfilled by QFF, existing requirements on sampling procedures and official methods of analysis of temperatures, as well as including the new requirements of temperature monitoring equipment as set out in Commission Regulation 37/2005. 

The key new requirements of Regulation 37/2005 are:

  • All new temperature monitoring equipment/instruments used in the transport warehousing and storage of QFF must comply with three European CEN standards from 1st January 2006 
  • Existing equipment complying with previous legislation can continue to be used only until 31 December 2009. Therefore, existing equipment that does not conform to the CEN standards will need to be replaced before this date with equipment that complies with the CEN standards from 1 January 2010 
  • The new temperature monitoring requirements now apply to transport of QFF by rail from 1 January 2006 
  • Food operators must also keep all relevant documents permitting verification that equipment/instruments conform to the relevant CEN standard 

The following should assist in giving guidance and further information, please use the links below. 

Food Standards Agency 

Quick Frozen Foodstuffs (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019