The Easter holidays are approaching and the entrepreneurs amongst us might be considering how their love for egg-shaped chocolate could be turned into a viable business venture. But how easy is it to start a business selling chocolate? What legal requirements and issues need to be considered when you make and sell food from home?
All UK businesses that prepare or sell food, including those run from home, must apply for a food licence with their local authority. Registration is free and your local authority must approve your application. If you fail to register, you could be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 2 years.
Labelling and packaging
If you pre-package your food, it must have labels providing information including the item’s ingredients, nutritional details and allergens. There are rules on how this information must be set out, and rules requiring it not to be misleading.
Non-prepackaged food is subject to less stringent labelling rules. As a minimum, you must have a visible statement (eg on your website) telling customers where they can obtain allergen information.
And chocolate has its own specific labelling rules.
The Cocoa and Chocolate Products (England) Regulations 2003 impose various rules. They dictate, for instance, when you can call your product ‘chocolate’, ‘milk chocolate’ or ‘filled chocolate’, based on factors like its cocoa solid content. There are similar standards in place for other categories of food products.
If you sell food from home, you need to treat your kitchen as you would a commercial kitchen. This means that your practices and kitchen must meet high hygiene and safety standards, else you risk receiving a poor food hygiene rating following a council inspection. This could drive away customers and can expose you to the risk of product liability claims.
Good allergen practices are essential to ensure that you don’t harm your customers. Among other things, you should
- correctly identify allergens on labels or on your website; and
- take care to avoid cross-contamination – between products and from food you make for yourself in your kitchen.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) provides essential advice for adhering to allergen rules.
As well as these food rules, if you’re going to start selling your own Easter eggs, you should pay attention to other requirements for running a business. These include:
- HR requirements;
- tax responsibilities;
- intellectual property and data protection laws;
- general health and safety requirements; and
- rules for distance selling (ie selling online).
Remember that you can always Ask a lawyer if you have any questions or concerns about starting a food business at home.