Christmas markets – how to ensure the food you sell is safe

In December many towns and cities are host to Christmas markets selling handmade goods, traditional toys, clothing, mulled wine, beer and plenty of delicious continental food – both hot and cold. If you’re a stallholder selling food for public consumption, then there are a number of precautions that you need to take to ensure that the food you serve is safe to eat.

First of all your stall or vehicle needs to be easy to keep clean. Surfaces should be smooth and durable (e.g. stainless steel or Formica). Wooden surfaces should be avoided since they can harbour germs.

Avoid external contamination    

Keep pests at bay by ensuring that the stall is screened at the top, rear and sides. Also make sure that rubbish and waste food is disposed of in plastic sacks which are secured. Cardboard boxes are not suitable.

Basic personal hygiene

This should really be second nature, but here’s a quick reminder:

  • Wear clean clothing and tie back hair or wear a cap
  • Wash hands before handling food or waste and after using the toilet
  • Cover any cuts or sores with a waterproof plaster
  • Never cough or sneeze over food


There should be a ready supply of soap and clean hot water for washing utensils, equipment, surfaces and hands. Paper towels should be used to dry hands and disposed of appropriately. A supply of cold water should be available for washing food.

Handling food

To prevent contamination same rules apply as for food served anywhere else:

  • Always make sure your hands are clean before handling food.
  • Keep raw food separate from cooked or ready-to-eat food.
  • Raw ingredients and other materials need to be stored to prevent deterioration or contamination.
  • If food is refrigerated, ensure that it is covered and stored at the correct temperature.
  • Remember that overloading a fridge can prevent it from working efficiently.
  • Containers used for storing and transporting food must be clean and easy to keep clean.
  • Separate utensils should be used for raw and cooked food.

Temperature control

This is extremely important.  Any stallholder serving hot or cold food needs to have suitable arrangements in place for monitoring and maintaining appropriate food temperatures.

  • Food needs to be kept cool – that means below 8 degrees C – until it can be cooked or heated.
  • Raw food must be thoroughly cooked all the way through before serving.
  • Reheated food must be piping hot.
  • As a rule cold food must be kept below 8 degrees C and hot food must be kept above 63 degrees C. To test the temperature regularly you will need a food thermometer.
  • It is a good idea to cook small quantities of food at a time.
  • Leftovers must be thrown away at the end of the day and must not be reheated.
  • Do not be tempted to part cook food off-site since temperatures are difficult to maintain in transit.


It is a legal requirement that if anybody’s job involves preparing, handling or serving food to the public, they should have at least basic food safety training. This does not take long to complete, but is essential if you are to avoid the risk of giving your customers food poisoning. Many courses can even be completed very cost-effectively online, such as our Level 2 Food Hygiene.

Those supervising others in food safety and food preparation would  be well advised to complete a Level 3 Food Hygiene course. At just £125 + VAT, with 10% discount code available during December our Level 3 course would be just the ticket.

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