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Food safety for charity cake stallholders and Bake Off enthusiasts

Lemon Drizzle CakeJust what is the Great British Bake Off’s secret ingredient? This year’s final attracted an audience of 13 million viewers – an astonishing number when you consider that long-running soap, Coronation Street only attracts around 9 million regular viewers. And it seems that fans of Bake off are not confined to the human race; I read in the Metro that a ginger moggy called Roger is obsessed with the programme and races downstairs as soon as he hears the theme tune!

Home baking reminds us of a bygone age

One of the most probable reasons for the programme’s success is nostalgia. Bake off reminds us of treats that our mothers and grandmothers used to make for us when we were younger; and that we feel we would like to make, if only our lives weren’t so hectic. There is also the fascination attached to the ‘showstopper’ creations and, of course, everybody loves a good competition – you’ve only got to look at the rise and rise of Strictly, X-factor and Masterchef for proof.

Almost certainly a combination of the recession and the popular programme was responsible for fuelling a boost in sales of home bakery products in recent years. Buns, cakes and scones are always a popular feature at school fetes and charity fundraisers. And Macmillan Cancer Support gets the country involved in the ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ every year, encouraging people and companies to sell coffee and homemade cakes for the charity. In fact we joined in ourselves this year and raised over £200.

Food hygiene rules if you’re making and selling cakes for charities or school fairs

We all know that professional bakeries are subject to stringent food hygiene and food labelling regulations, but if we’re baking cakes at home to be sold on a stall, do the same regulations apply? The answer to this question is ‘no’, unless you are baking for a charity which is registered as a food business. Nevertheless basic food safety knowledge is important to keep the risk of food poisoning to a minimum.

cakesFor example, always wash your hands before starting to bake, remove jewellery, tie back hair, wear a clean apron and ensure that all surfaces, bowls, utensils etc. are clean. It’s also important, especially if you’re baking for people who are elderly or very young, not to use raw eggs in anything that won’t be thoroughly cooked – an example of this is mousse or certain types of icing.

Cakes that contain cream and cheesecakes need to be stored in a refrigerator before taking them to the venue. As with other types of prepared food, you should take extra care to ensure that they are covered and kept away from raw food, especially meat.

Other cakes should be stored in a dry, clean, sealable container – that rusty old biscuit tin simply won’t do, even if it looks ‘vintage.’ The same container can be used to transport them to wherever the fair or coffee morning is taking place.

Once at the venue keep cream cakes in the fridge for as long as possible and only keep them on display for a short period of time. Wash your hands as often as possible and use a cake slice or tongs to serve your cakes, rather than your fingers.

How long a cake will stay fresh really depends how it is stored and also on the sugar content. Since sugar is a preservative, the greater the sugar content, the longer the cake will last. Keeping cakes in the fridge will also prolong their life, although the flavour might suffer slightly.

Preserving safety when selling jam

On the subject of preservatives, several people like to sell homemade jams on charity stalls or at other community events. Again, unless the charity is a registered food business, you are not governed by regulation. However, once again, basic food hygiene practices should come into play. If you are selling your jam in jars that have been used before, make sure that they don’t have any chips or cracks, have good, tight-fitting lids and have been sterilised.

A word about allergies and labelling

Most people who are allergic to a particular ingredient will ask you if your products contain it, and whilst you don’t have to label the food you’re selling on your stall, it would be a good idea to make reference to those products which do contain allergens. The 14 main allergens that must be identified on labels are:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Molluscs
  • Soya
  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Sesame seeds
  • Mustard
  • Celery and celeriac
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites
  • Lupin flour

If you decide to produce labels for your food, do ensure that the information is accurate. All ingredients should be listed in descending order of weight, and you will need to embolden any ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction.

Food safety for start-up food businesses

Perhaps you’re thinking of taking your baking hobby further and starting a business. If so, why not take a look at our range of food safety courses? You might also find our legal labelling course of interest. It explains the  new EU Regulation on the Provision of Food Information to Consumers and, among other things, explains in what context you can use words such as ‘fresh’, ‘natural’ and ‘healthy.’

If you have a specific requirement we can offer consultancy to help you make sure your labels meet the requirements of the new legislation. Please contact us for further details.

Happy baking!