food business

Essential Steps for Starting a Food Business: 9 Key Points to Ensure Compliance and Safety

If you are thinking of starting up a food business, it is your legal responsibility to make sure your business complies with food law and produces safe food.  The following 9 points are a must when starting up you own food business.

  1. Register your food business

Your business must be registered before you start operating, even if you are operating from home. Who you register with depends on the type of business and whether you are handling or processing foods of animal origin. Registration can be done through the following competent authorities:

  • The local environmental health office
  • The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
  • The Local Authority Veterinary Service
  • The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority

It is important to register as soon as possible, as the relevant authoritative body will advise whether your premises and operations are compliant with food hygiene legislation. In particular, if you are operating from home to ensure it is suitable for the activities you intend to carry out.

  1. Your business may also need approval

If your business handles and/or processes foods of animal origin you may need approval. The relevant competent authority will offer advice and provide details of the approval process. Some examples of businesses that would require approval include:

  • Slaughterhouses
  • Meat processors
  • Meat product manufacturers
  • Egg producers
  • Dairy producers
  • Fish processors
  • Producers of processed fishery products (e.g., smoked, marinated fish)

After your business is approved you will receive a unique approval number. This number appears on the health mark which is stamped on the carcass or cut meat after slaughter or on packaging/labels as an identification mark.

  1. Understand the basics of food hygiene.

Understanding the basics of food hygiene will help you to stop harmful bacteria and viruses entering your food business and produce safe food. Understanding the basics of food hygiene includes knowledge around personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitation, pest control, waste disposal, temperature control, storage and delivery.

You must be familiar with food hygiene legislation as this lays down the rules which food business operators must comply with in order to supply safe food. The main pieces of food legislation to understand the basics of food hygiene include

  • A legislation for all food businesses: Regulation (EC) No 852/2004
  • Food businesses handling products of animal origin: Regulation (EC) No 853/2004
  • Specific rules for official controls on products of animal origin: Regulation (EC) No 854/2004.

The legislation setting out the general principles of food law – Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 should also be consulted for the rules setting out food safety requirement and the responsibilities of food businesses, including traceability.

  1. Have appropriate food hygiene training

It is the food business operators responsibility to ensure that they, or any staff that handle food, have received enough training in food hygiene to allow them to do their job safely. Training should address good hygiene practices, causes and prevention of food poisoning and spoilage, personal hygiene, cleaning and pest control. Those responsible for the development and maintenance of procedures based on your business’s HACCP system, must undertake training in the application of HACCP principles.

  • Level 1 training provides information on basic food safety skills that staff should be able to demonstrate within the first month of employment and is required by all workers in your business.
  • Level 2 provides information on the additional food safety skills that staff should be able to demonstrate within 3-12 months of employment in your food business.
  • Level 3 provides information on the food safety skills that should be demonstrated by managers and supervisors.


  1. Have a traceability system

All food businesses must have an effective traceability system in place, food business operators must be able to trace the food they receive one step back to the supplier and if they supply to another food business, once step forward. This is crucial for quickly addressing any potential food safety issues. The following information needs to be kept on record for products supplied to your business:

  • the name and address of supplier
  • description of the product
  • date of delivery/purchase.

More specific information must be recorded for food of animal origin. The additional information required is the volume or quantity of food and a reference identifying the lot or batch. It is best practice to keep this additional information for all products supplied to you and not just for those of animal origin.

Food business operators must know what to do if food is unsafe and needs to be recalled or withdrawn from the market. A plan must be in place to be able to quickly identify and remove unsafe food from the market and provide quick information to businesses, consumers and competent authorities.

  1. Develop a food safety management system (HACCP)

The word HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point) refers to procedures put in place to ensure the food you produce is safe. These procedures make up your food safety management system. Your food safety management system allows you to identify and control any food hazards that could pose as a danger to the preparation of safe food. It helps you to:

  • Identify what can go wrong
  • Plan to prevent it
  • Make sure you are doing it

HACCP is a legal requirement but it also benefits your business.


  1. Consider the requirements when operating from home, a food truck or selling at a farmer’s market

When starting a food business at home, a food truck or taking a stall at the market, the amount of food safety requirements can seem overwhelming for a small business. In addition there are certain pitfalls associated with operating a food business from home that must be considered. The FSAI have the following publications on their website to assist small producers starting a business: starting a food business at home, a market trader handbook, Irish village markets handbook, guidance note for food stalls and a country market’s guide to Good Hygiene Practice.


  1. Declare the presence of food allergens used as ingredients

There is a list of 14 allergens that you must declare the presence of if they are used as ingredients in your food. The list of allergens you must declare by law include:

  • Cereals containing gluten – wheat, rye, barley, oats.
  • Crustaceans – e.g., crabs, prawns, lobsters
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Milk
  • Nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia/Queensland nut) The name of the nut must be declared and highlighted.
  • Celery
  • Mustard
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg or 10mg/L) – used as a preservative.
  • Lupin
  • Molluscs – e.g., mussels, oysters, squid, snails.


  1. Provide evidence of an appropriate food safety culture

Commission Regulation (EU) 2021/382 amending an existing regulation requires all food business operators to establish, maintain and provide evidence of a food safety culture. Food safety culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours within an organisation that prioritizes and promotes food safety. It is an collective mindset and approach that influences how all individuals within an organisation think about, perceive, and act upon food safety practices. A strong food safety culture is essential for maintaining the highest standards of food safety and preventing foodborne illness.