Guest Post: A Beginner’s Food Safety Guide for Food Entrepreneurs

Posted on May 29, 2024 by

Would you build your house on sand? Probably not. You’d build it on a solid foundation. For the same reason, you should build your business with a sound food safety program at its core. It’s easy to jump straight to the next big marketing idea that will cause your brand to take off, but a food safety plan should never be an afterthought.

Remember how food poisoning derailed those plans last summer? Now, take it up a notch. Imagine a small negligence resulting in the ruin of something you've poured your heart and soul into – your food business.

This article will help food entrepreneurs, like you avoid a situation like that, paying particular attention to processing and storage, food regulations and certification, and implementing a food safety system for success.

The Importance of Safe Food Safety Practices for Your Business

As someone working in the food industry, you understand the reasons why food safety matters. They cannot be understated. Especially moving into the latter half of this decade with things like the Traceability Rule (i.e., FSMA 204) which has a compliance deadline of January 2026.

One key aspect of food safety is mitigating health risks. A single lapse can lead to foodborne illnesses, which can have serious health implications for consumers and result in severe reputational damage for your business.

Let’s look at some stats…


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses in the United States.

A study in the Public Health Rep journal found that, depending on size of the operation and how widespread the outbreak is, a food safety outbreak could cost an establishment between $6,330 to $2.1 million.

Maintaining a high standard of food safety can help businesses stay compliant with local and national regulations and avoid costly penalties. In some cases, businesses that fail to meet these regulations risk facing hefty fines – or worse, being shut down. We don’t share those food safety statistics to intimidate business owners or scare you out of starting a food business. We share them to communicate the weight of food safety in today’s industry.

Tips for keeping food safety a priority

  1. Engage with food safety compliance technology: There are many food safety software options and checklist apps that offer free trials. Start trying them out and getting comfortable with them early on so that you’re comfortable with using them when the time and/or budget comes to move from a paper-based food safety system to a digital one.
  2. Regular simulation exercises: If you’re a one-person operation or only have a few team members, you can still conduct regular food safety-related simulations. One common example is performing an internal food safety audit to see how well you (and your team) are keeping up with and knowledgeable about your food storage, food preparation, sanitation, facility design, and employee hygiene practices. Once you complete it, you’ll be able to identify where you’re doing well and where you need to improve. You can repeat this once a quarter, once every six months, or even once a year. Studies have shown that .
  3. Join community education programs: Some food safety standards require that you provide evidence of continually improving food safety for your business. Early on, you probably won’t need a certification. They can be expensive and are better suited for more complex operations. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps in that direction — your business could reach that point one day! So we encourage you to join food safety forums such as International Food Safety & Quality Network, join LinkedIn food safety groups, and sign up for free (or paid) food safety classes.

Implementing Proper Food Handling Techniques

Correct food handling techniques significantly reduce the risk of cross-contamination, one of the primary causes of foodborne illnesses. Contamination of foods occurs when harmful bacteria or allergens spread from food to food, from utensils to food, or from hands to food.

Following sanitation food safety rules is one of the principal ways to avoid cross-contamination. Doing things like regularly washing hands and frequently sanitizing work surfaces, utensils, and equipment. Keeping raw and ready-to-eat foods separate during storage and preparation also helps prevent bacteria from raw foods contaminating cooked or ready-to-eat items.

Cutting Boards

Tips for consistent food handling practices

  1. Color-code tools and areas: Implement a color-coded system for tools, food contact surfaces, and areas to prevent cross-contamination. Let’s take cutting board colors, for example, where you can use the following system to ensure you never risk using the wrong cutting boards for the wrong food types:

    1. Yellow: Used for cooked meats
    2. Red: Used for raw meats
    3. White: Used for dairy and baked products
    4. Green: Used for fresh vegetables
    5. Brown: Used for root vegetables
    6. Blue: Used for raw fish
    7. Purple: Used for "free-from" products
  2. Use food safety posters as reminders: Download free food safety posters to help enforce food safety in your business. tracking: Utilize wearable technology that monitors and reports on staff hygiene practices in real-time. Determining which food safety posters will be the most helpful will depend on your personal experience. But this could include a handwashing poster above your sink, a fridge layout poster on your refrigerator door, a food allergen poster on your cupboard, and whatever else makes sense!
  3. Get a food handler certificate: Check with your local government to see what’s required by law, but taking the course — in person or online — to acquire your food handler card will look great in future inspectors’ eyes. It shows that you take food safety seriously as a food entrepreneur and are actively taking steps toward compliance.

Making sure your store food ingredients and products properly

Preventive controls such as proper storage involves careful planning and execution if you want to extend shelf-life and prevent foodborne diseases. Regardless of whether it's raw, cooked, or pre-packaged food, optimal storage conditions significantly influence their longevity and integrity.

To minimize food safety risks and ensure efficient food storage, here are a few tips:

  • Always store your food at the right temperature.
  • Different food products require varying storage conditions, so be aware of these differences.
  • Freeze if necessary and ensure cooked food is properly covered before refrigeration.
  • Keep things organized and implement a first-in, first-out system to ensure older food items are consumed first.
Organized Refrigerator

Tips for effective food storage

  1. Regulate external factors: Controlling environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity is vital for preventing the growth of harmful organisms in food. Effective food storage minimizes these variables, creating an environment that discourages bacterial proliferation, especially among hazardous foods. The temperature danger zone, typically between 40°F and 140°F, is conducive to bacterial growth and accelerates food spoilage. Knowing your fridge and freezer temperatures is one thing, but monitoring and logging those temperatures will give you an historical record, a baseline, and help you identify if anything’s wrong with your storage devices or rooms.
  2. Protect against contaminants: Store food in its original packaging or clean secure containers to protect it for future use. If your containers don’t have adequate barriers, you increase the likelihood of cross-contamination and risk of foodborne illness.
  3. Maintain characteristics of your food and drink products: Proper storage conditions help maintain the quality of food by preserving qualities such as texture, color, aroma, and flavor. It’s a good idea to have text descriptions as well as photo and/or video available so that you can meet quality control standards with every batch and reduce waste.

    All the things we’ve shared so far are all key components to a holistic food safety management system (FSMS). The next section applies more to food entrepreneurs who are further along in their journey, but it’s still helpful to be aware of even if you’re just starting out.

    Understanding the Role of Food Safety Certifications

    Food Certifications

    Depending on the type of food business you have, there are certain food safety compliance standards that you either need (or want) to meet and, if possible, exceed.

    HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), for example, is a popular one that applies to food processing plants, retail food stores, and food service operations. If you’re any type of food manufacturer, you’re eventually going to seek FSSC 22000 compliance. SQF is another food safety standard that applies to all sectors of the food supply chain.

    Obtaining food safety certifications proves your dedication and commitment to food safety. The specific certification process varies depending on the third-party certification body and the type of certification you seek. There are also second-party audits (i.e., you auditing a supplier or vice versa before using them as a supplier) and first-party audits (i.e., internally auditing your own operations).

    Above all, navigating food safety regulations and certifications is all about commitment to quality and customer safety. By understanding these regulations and striving for certifications, you demonstrate your dedication to your business and its customers. Many food businesses use FoodDocs, for example, to set up internal compliance audits in preparation for the real one.

    LinkedIn Post

    Putting Brand Reputation and Customer Satisfaction in the Food Safety Spotlight

    With more access to information than ever before, people are holding brands accountable at alarming rates. And for good reason.

    Where is my food being produced?

    Are there any unethical practices throughout the process?

    How can I be sure this food business is legit?

    These are just a few questions that conscious shoppers are likely asking themselves (and their friends) before making any purchases. Food safety screws or seals a food business's fate. Behind every lip-smacking delicacy served, rigorous food safety practices are at work. If these practices falter, customer satisfaction inevitably tanks. From foodborne illnesses to allergic reactions, these are the things that can rapidly erode your customers' trust and loyalty.

    A study in Sustainability concluded that:

    “Hypermarkets can also make food safety tangible via displaying some information to customers, such as food temperature, storage condition, and expiration date, using ready-to-print shelf tags that inform customers or print recommendations in graphics. It is easier for customers to see the tangible value of what they just bought, which increases their satisfaction. Hypermarkets can make food safety tangible by using facilities that prevent cross-contamination, improving the appearance of work staff, for example, by displaying shelves with mouth-guard equipment or the packing/cover RTE food, requiring the use of mouth-guard masks and aprons, and using clean serving utensils.”

    Tips for communicating your food safety priority

    1. Understand your customer's expectations around food safety: Approach it like a headwaiter approaching a table—listen attentively, and assure your customers their needs are met.
    2. Stay clear and consistent with your communication: Make your food safety message straightforward and harmonious across all marketing channels.
    3. Go beyond just communication: Collaborate! Encourage your customers to share feedback on your food safety practices, creating an open dialogue that builds mutual trust and respect.

    Whether it’s a quick tweet about your latest food safety certification or a poster illustrating your kitchen's safety standards, your transparency will reassure customers that their wellbeing and satisfaction is your priority.

    Food entrepreneurs: incorporate food safety measures into your business operations earlier than later

    Remember, implementing rigid food safety procedures could save your (soon-to-be) successful food business from failure. From cultivating a culture of food safety, proper hand hygiene to temperature control and supplier verification, every aspect plays a vital role in maintaining superior quality and enhancing consumer confidence.

    As you work on elevating food safety standards in your business, keep in mind: you’re not just serving food; you’re serving peace of mind. And for food entrepreneurs, that's an unbeatable recipe for success.

About Katrin Liivat

Katrin Liivat

Katrin Liivat is the Co-Founder and CEO of FoodDocs. She’s a former food safety consultant who has seen how challenging it is for food businesses to ensure food safety for their customers. She started FoodDocs to help food businesses get and stay compliant with food safety regulations, while saving them time and money.

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