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If you’re building or refurbishing a care home kitchen, cooking or preparation area, food hygiene should be the first thing you consider. The kitchen is going to be a central hub, serving up meals 3 times a day as well as any hot drinks and snacks for the residents.

Here’s our advice for planning a kitchen layout, choosing the right care home kitchen equipment and how to follow food safety standards.

Why is food hygiene important in a care home?

Elderly and vulnerable care home residents are known to be more at risk of illnesses. It’s important to make sure you are following the highest level of food safety and hygiene guidelines.

Older people can be more at risk for food poisoning and linked illnesses. Outbreaks of E.coli are also common due to their weaker immune systems. Getting sick from off or uncooked food will give someone younger mild symptoms, but can be very dangerous for eldery people.

Meeting CQC guidelines

The Care Quality Commission, or CQC, are an independent regulator in the UK that was established by the Health and Social Care Act 2008. They inspect care homes across the UK, and help to develop the regulations in the industry.

During a care home inspection by the CQC, they will expect to see a safe and clean home with healthy residents. They’ll definitely look at your kitchen areas to gauge cleanliness levels, and to determine that residents have their nutritional needs met.

The CQC will check that your care home is safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led. A score will be assigned to each of these areas. This report will be made public which will be a key part of research for anyone looking to choose a care home.

If you don’t comply, the CQC can put your home under special measures or shut it down if residents are at risk. Prosecution can be initiated if a resident is found to be harmed.

Monitoring food safety and ensuring a high level of hygiene is crucial in residential care homes.

Food Standards Agency guidance

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) protects public health by ensuring the safety of food. A board is responsible for ensuring that the food consumed in businesses such as care homes is safe.

Care homes are assessed on hygienic food handling, the physical conditions of the home and food management systems in place.

Food Safety Act 1990 details the preparation, storage, and delivery of food. Care homes are required to make sure that food they provide meets the requirements of the Act.

In the same way as food businesses, care homes must have a food safety plan based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). This means all commercial businesses must create this plan. Evidence will need to be provided to their local food safety authority that it’s being followed. This covers everything in the cooking process, from hand washing, to preparation, to cooking. 

Food hygiene ratings in care homes

Residents and their families use the Food Hygiene Ratings to determine the quality of your catering services. In partnership with local authorities, the Government runs the Food Hygiene scheme. Your business can be inspected at any time by your local authority.

Receiving a rating of 3 or lower can damage your reputation and ultimately impact revenues, as residents and families may look for alternatives.

Storing, preparing and handling food safely

Food hygienic guidelines apply both to hot foods and to food that needs to be cooled. Here’s how to follow those guidelines, and which kitchen equipment we would recommend for your care home.

Refrigeration

Refrigerated food should be stored at 8ºC or below in order to be effective at reducing the multiplication of bacteria. Most commonly, temperatures of under 5ºC are used. Purchasing a commercial fridge with an external thermometer will make it easy for you to check this, and means you don’t have the open the fridge more often than is necessary. Commercial equipment is also designed to hold temperatures better than domestic fridges.

Freezing

Frozen food should be stored under -18ºC to prevent bacteria from multiplying. A blast chiller can help in this process, as it will cause the food to cool quickly before being stored in a freezer.

Cooking

Food should be cooked at temperatures of above 75ºC to destroy bacteria. Temperatures below this can also be effective as long as the food is held at the temperature for a longer time period. A combi oven complete with a built in temperature probe means youll be able to record cooking data, which you can use for reports and audits. 

Cooling

Food should be cooled as quickly as possible before being refrigerated in order to limit the growth of bacteria. A blast chiller is ideal fo this as it rapidly chills the food. 

Reheating

Any food that is being reheated should be raised to a temperature of 82ºC which ensures it will be safe. Using a combi oven for this will mean all the nutrients stay locked into the food, while also allowing you to record the temperature to make sure it’s safe. 

Food safety and food hygiene best practices in care homes

The main elements of following good food safety and hygiene practice include:

  • Have good personal hygiene, wash hands regularly and wear protective clothing such as hairnets and aprons
  • Have a cleaning procedure that includes disinfecting the kitchen, equipment, plates and cutlery
  • Storing food safely, using proper containers and labelling
  • Using separate chopping boards for different types of foods to prevent cross contamination
  • Cooking food at correct temperatures

Food safety for diets and allergies

If your care home has residents with allergies or specific dietary requirements, you need to make sure you’re avoiding cross contamination (the most common cause of food poisining).

  • Equipment such as commercial fryers carry a high risk of cross-contamination. Make sure you’re using separate fryers or a twin tank fryer.
  • If you need to serve gluten free food, you need to use a commercial dishwasher to make sure gluten is removed from any contact surfaces. They are able to reach the sanitation temperature that’s required by law, unlike most domestic dishwashers.

Gas safety in care homes

The Gas Safety Regulation requires businesses, including care homes, ensure that all gas appliances are maintained in a safe condition through an annual gas safety check. Non-compliance with this is a serious offence, and you could risk a fine or prison sentence.

You’ll need to make sure your care home is checked by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.

Tips for meeting care home food hygiene standards

  1. Make sure you have met the CQC standards
  2. Always use commercial equipment to ensure you’re meeting food safety regulations
  3. Ask an expert (like us!) for help and advice for planning your care home kitchen and equipment

Our team of catering equipment experts can help recommend suitable equipment and design your care home kitchen. Contact us so you can find the best solution for your business while following the necessary regulations and standards. 

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