www.gov.uk is the best sources of information for compliance in England.

1: Legal structures

Download our Legal Structures table for more information.

All entities have a form of model rules that explain their purpose and their powers with the exception of sole traders. All enterprises need to register with HMRC unless they are exempt; Charities, unincorporated charities and Societies for the benefit of the community are exempt.

Exemption has to be applied for either by registering as a charity with the charity commission or applying for exemption form HMRC.

Many enterprises will limit their liability by ‘incorporating’. ‘Incorporating’ is creating a separate legal entity – separating the enterprise from the owners. Most companies incorporate by adopting model rule and registering with Companies House – this also includes community interest companies.

Unincorporated bodies include a sole trader and an unincorporated association (also called an unincorporated charity). Unincorporated associations do not need to register with anyone, although the law requires an organisation that earns more than £,5000 a year to register with the charity commission if their purpose is charitable.

2: Health & Safety

Every business in the UK must have a health and safety policy, if you have 5+ employees it should be written down – more information can be found here.

Risk Assessments are required by law of every employer and are often asked for by others e.g. markets. Food businesses require a specific risk assessment - Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP).

Records must be kept up to date relating to procedures (Safer Food, Better Business), and procedures should be reviewed if anything changes about your business.

Allergen awareness and labelling must be compliant with Natasha’s Law.  The law states that all allergen information must be provided for non-pre-packed foods (such as those provided in restaurants, bars and cafeĢs).  See below allergen labelling for packaged foods, and guidance from the Food Standards Agency. The provision of allergen information is a requirement for all stages of the food chain, covering food intended for the final consumer, food supplied by mass caterers and foods supplied to mass caterers. Information about allergens must be legible and clearly marked in an obvious place.

The 14 food allergens which will need to be declared when used as an ingredient are:

  • cereals containing gluten e.g. wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut
  • crustaceans, e.g. prawns, lobster, crab
  • eggs
  • fish
  • peanuts
  • soybeans
  • milk
  • other nuts, e.g almond, hazelnut, walnut, pecan nuts
  • celery
  • mustard
  • sesame seeds
  • sulphur dioxide
  • lupin
  • molluscs, e.g. clams, mussels, oysters

Additional Common areas for all businesses to consider are fire safety, lifting and material handling.

Essential sources of information:

3: Licenses

You must register as a food business 28 days before beginning trading.

You will need to follow procedures based on Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP), keep up to date records relating to procedures (Safer Food, Better Business) and review procedures if anything changes.

Other licences for catering and hospitality include selling alcohol, providing entertainment and selling hot food and drink between 11pm and 5am. You must be 18 or over to apply for a premises license, and a designated premises supervisor (DPS) must have a personal licence  to sell alcohol.

A street trading license is required for all selling, offering or displaying for sale of any item or service in the street. This includes stalls, shop-front displays, and cafe tables and chairs with service and advertising ‘A’ boards.

4: Insurance

Insurance is not a legal requirement until you employ someone or involve volunteers.

Some business regulators require certain types of insurance in order to operate. Those insurances will be mandatory for particular professions.

Types of insurance include:

  • Public liability
  • Employers liability
  • Product liability
  • Professional indemnity
  • Business interruption
  • Business property insurance
  • Cyber Insurance

5: Trading Standards Requirements

In general, you need to sell goods or services in a lawful manner, which might include:

  • Displaying prices
  • Providing accurate descriptions of your products 

For more information see:

6: Labelling food appropriately

All prepacked food requires a food label that displays certain mandatory information. All food is subject to general food labelling requirements and any labelling provided must be accurate and not misleading. For more information on packaging and food labelling requirements see guidance from the Food Standards Agency.  

You must provide allergen information for all of your food products, whether sold loose or packaged. See above section on health and safety for more information.

7: Data protection

You must follow rules on data protection if your business stores or uses personal information, in line with UK law. Establish a plan for your data management.

This applies to information kept on staff, customers and account holders, for example when you:

  • recruit staff
  • manage staff records
  • have members
  • market your products or services
  • use CCTV

This could include:

  • keeping customer/member/service user addresses on file
  • recording staff working hours
  • giving delivery information to a delivery company

You must make sure the information is kept secure, accurate and up to date.

When you collect someone’s personal data you must tell them who you are and how you’ll use their information, including if it’s being shared with other organisations.

You must also tell them that they have the right to:

  • see any information you hold about them and correct it if it’s wrong
  • request their data is deleted
  • request their data is not used for certain purposes

For more information see:

8: Quality standards

There are many bodies in the UK which in some form or other certify you or your suppliers’ businesses. These might be called associations, authorities, institutes or agencies and for some industries these are required and in others they are optional.

Quality standards can ensure the quality of your product and service, enhance your reputation, keep you informed on best practice and link you to likeminded businesses. You may have considered quality standards with your project idea and purpose, with your theory of change and you may consider them when you look at your operational considerations. Quality standards are likely to relate to suppliers, employment, service & products.

9: Planning Consent

You will probably need planning permission if you want to:

  • build something new
  • make a major change to your building, such as building an extension
  • change the use of your building

Before you negotiate a lease or buy a property, it is advisable to consider whether you need to obtain planning permission for your intended use and, if so, your chances of getting it.

To find out more: https://www.gov.uk/planning-permission-england-wales

You can contact your local planning authority through your local authority.

Good Food Enterprise: Working to provide food that is good for people and the planet, and support local production playing a part in community beyond trading.

The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA

020 3559 6777

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

© Sustain 2024
Registered charity (no. 1018643)
Data privacy & cookies