Marketing your wares Festive markets are the ideal place to sell food products, but make sure you follow food-safety advice With the festive season approaching, Christmas food markets will be springing up far and wide. Whether you are an experienced stallholder or considering setting up for the first time, here are some basic tips that will help you to keep food safe. During transportation and storage, make sure you wrap food hygienically and store it in clean containers. To avoid any cross-contamination, always keep raw foods and any unwashed fruit or vegetables separate from ready-to-eat foods. High-risk foods – such as cooked meat and vegetable products, cooked, smoked or cured meat or fish, soft or semi-hard cheeses, and most other dairy products – must be kept cold (at or below 8˚C) to prevent the growth of food-poisoning bacteria. Insulated containers with ice packs are usually sufficient for transportation and storage at the market. Check temperatures regularly with a thermometer – and it’s a good idea to keep a log. As well as displaying food attractively, you must ensure that the surface used is clean and in good condition. This may mean lining wooden tables with plastic sheeting. Clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment regularly. Unless you can keep high-risk foods cold, only set out small quantities that will sell quickly. Remember to keep raw and ready-to-eat foods apart and, wherever possible, protect food from public touching, coughing or sneezing. If you are handling unwrapped foods, you must be able to wash your hands at the stall. You will need to provide hot water, a bowl, soap and paper towels. Some means of washing equipment must also be provided. This must be separate to the arrangement you have put in place for hand washing. Clean, protective overclothing not only looks professional, but it is also a must for good hygiene. You may not necessarily require a formal qualification in food hygiene, but you must be able to identify possible food-safety hazards, know which ones apply to the type of food you are selling, and put in place suitable controls to stop problems occurring. Following the simple rules set out above will help you with this. If you are in any doubt, your local environmental health department will be happy to advise you. There are separate requirements for food labelling and declaring food allergens. Your trading standards department can assist with these. Winter 2015 food and drink Any alcohol offered for sale other than by a legitimate supplier is likely to be illegal – either an illicit unknown brand, a counterfeit or a genuine product that has been smuggled. As well as misleading customers, creating unfair competition for honest traders, funding organised criminals and causing UK tax revenue losses, counterfeit and illicit brands are likely to have been produced with little or no regard for safety and can cause anything from nausea to blindness – and even death. To avoid stocking illegal alcohol, remember the 4 Ps: place, price, packaging and product. Place Only deal with reputable suppliers and get proper invoices. Cash and carry businesses have been known to deal in illicit alcohol, so you must still check. Keep all invoices, as it is a requirement to show full traceability. Never buy alcohol from anyone who brings the goods to the shop. The drink will undoubtedly be illegal in some way. Control your stock so you can be sure where goods come from. For example, mark boxes of alcohol with the supplier and date of purchase. Be careful about accepting returns from customers who have changed their minds. Price If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Packaging Check the label. Where possible, compare with a bottle that you know is genuine. Warning signs include: poor printing or spelling errors on the label; poor-quality label/alignment; overstuck labels; and foreign labelling. Is the case resealed? If spirits are sold in cases that have been resealed – or that have ‘UK Duty Paid’ crossed through – don’t buy them. Also check that individual bottle caps are properly sealed. Spirits in bottles 35cl or larger, and 30% ABV or higher, have to have a UK Duty stamp. The stamp will glow white, yellow or green when UV light is shined on it. It should not reflect blue/violet. UV lights are easy and cheap to buy, and checking your stock with such a light is a sensible precaution. Fake bar codes. Scan the code and see if it’s listed as the correct product. Product Look out for fake versions of well-known brands and be wary of unusual brand names you haven’t seen before. Vodka, the most commonly counterfeited spirit, shouldn’t have any white particles or sediment in the bottle. If it does, then the vodka could have been diluted with tap water. If you are offered illegal alcohol, you should report it to trading standards by calling the confidential fakes hotline on 0300 303 2636, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Credit: Stuart Powell Andrzej Sowa / shutterstock Stocking fillers How to avoid stocking up on i llegal alcohol this Christmas Illicit brands can cause anything from nausea to blindness and even death Credit: Elizabeth Lee conejota / shutterstock find out more Visit the Food Standards Agency website for further hygiene advice. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health offers further information on training. You must be able to identify possible food–safety hazards and put in place suitable controls to stop problems occurring Winter 2015 food and drink Stocking fillers How to avoid stocking up on illegal alcohol this Christmas.