Many entrepreneurs have brilliant food business ideas but never know where to start and what to do to ensure their businesses are legally compliant. While having a great business idea is a good start, it is important that all relevant laws and regulations are observed to avoid legal complications.
Below is a step by step guide on how to start a legally compliant food business in South Africa.
STEP 1: Decide on the Product You Want to Sell
Firstly, determine what product or group of products you want to sell.
Knowing your product category will inform the type of regulations you will have to comply with, in your business. You may decide to sell cooked food at a restaurant or in a food truck, perhaps open a meat deboning plant or butchery or run a sandwich shop.
You must know what you want to sell, determine its quality characteristics and ensure that the product complies with food safety requirements and legislation.
Nutritional Analysis and Labelling
If your product is not sold immediately after preparation, you must conduct a nutritional analysis that you will need to put on the packaging.
The nutritional analysis will determine your product’s nutritional composition and follow labelling requirements as per Regulation R146 (Regulations relating to the labelling and advertising of foodstuffs).
In addition, you may have to conduct a shelf-life study validation. This helps determine how long your product will last on the shelf before it is unsuitable for consumption. Your study should take into account the following:
- Physical characteristics of the products
- Sensory properties
- Microbiological properties and
- Chemical properties of the product
After you have conducted shelf-life studies, you will have to put either the “Best Before Date” or “Expiry Date” on the product label.
STEP 2: Implement Processes to Ensure Product Safety and Quality
You should implement relevant processes that will guarantee product safety and quality.
These processes could be:
- Temperature control to maintain the cold chain if your product is temperature-sensitive.
- Housekeeping, cleaning and hygiene measures to ensure your product is prepared in a safe, clean and uncontaminated environment.
- Personnel Hygiene practices for your Staff to prevent cross-contamination.
- Waste control to prevent improper storage of waste that can end up contaminating the final product.
- Pest control measures to prevent pest infestation, which if uncontrolled, could lead to product contamination.
- Maintenance of equipment and facilities to prevent contamination by foreign materials.
- Traceability procedures detailing traceability from receiving raw materials to final product dispatch.
To only mention a few.
You must ensure that you keep documentation. An example would be Standard Operating Procedures specifying how the above will be done in the facility. Record keeping is important to ensure there is evidence of complying with these requirements.
STEP 3: Ensure Your Premises and Equipment are Suitable
Regulations R638: 2018 is the most basic food safety legislation every food handling business must comply with.
As per Regulation 5 (requirements for food premises) of Regulations R638, food premises must be suitable for food handling. Therefore, the food premises must be kept in a condition that does not:
- create a health hazard for food and
- designed in a way that prevents proper cleaning.
Food premises must protect the food from contamination or spoilage from:
- poisonous or offensive gases
- soot deposits
- insects or other vectors
- other physical, chemical (including unintended allergens) or biological contamination
- any other agent whatsoever
In essence, the food premises must be sufficiently covered and protected from any possible source of contamination.
STEP 4: Get the Necessary Training for You and Your Staff
All food business owners or managers or any person recognised as a person in charge of the food premises must get food safety training.
The training requirements are set out on Regulation 10 of the R638: 2018. In addition to the training of the persons in charge, ALL food handlers must also receive food safety training annually.
A person in charge who has been found competent can provide this training.
It is the responsibility of the person in charge to keep all training records proving successful training. Should the person in charge not be comfortable providing this training, they may ask a food safety training institution like ASC Consultants to conduct training.
STEP 5: Attain a Certificate of Acceptability
To legally sell any foodstuff in South Africa, except unprocessed agricultural products, you must apply for a Certificate of Acceptability from the local authority, which would typically be your municipality. This certificate must be in place before you start trading.
Once you have applied for the certificate of acceptability (See Annexure A of the regulation on page 31), the municipal environmental inspector will visit your food premises and inspect the following:
- Food premises in general whether they are conducive for food handling.
- Surrounding areas and their potential to contaminate food manufactured at your premises, as well as your risk mitigation measures should there be a possibility of contamination.
- Waste and pest control measures put in place.
- Training file for you as a person in charge and that of your staff members.
Your application should be processed by the local authority as soon as possible. An Inspector may require more information from you after the submission of your application.
It is essential to note that the COA must be displayed in an area visible to the public. Should that not be possible, the COA must be immediately available upon request.
A COA cannot be transferred from one person to another and/or from one food premise to another.
STEP 6: Comply With All Other Relevant Legislation
You must comply with all other relevant South African laws and regulations, including municipal by-laws. The list of regulations includes the following:
- Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997
- Tax Law ; SARS, VAT, Income Tax, Customs Tax,
- Companies Act 71 of 2008,
- Close Corporations Act 69 of 1984,
- Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2009 and the Competition Act 89 of 1998.
Find out additional relevant laws, including those applicable to the product being handled or manufactured.
STEP 7: Implement a Recognised HACCP System Certification
Click on this blog below to find out how you can achieve this.