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Hygiene laws for food businesses

Personal hygiene and toilets - food businesses

Every person in food handling areas must maintain a high level of personal cleanliness and hygiene, eg. wear suitable, clean (and protective where necessary) clothing; stay away from work if suffering from an illness transmissible through food/drink or wound/skin infections. If suffering with vomiting and/or diarrhoea the person must not return to work until at least 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.

Where handling open foods, regular hand washing and drying is vital to help prevent harmful bacteria from spreading. An appropriately located wash hand basin should be allocated purely for hand washing and liquid soap and hygienic hand drying facilities provided (eg. single use paper towels in a dispenser). Where hand operable taps are installed, they should be hygienically turned off to prevent the risk of re-contamination (eg. a paper towel could be used to turn off the taps).

The wash hand basin should be separate to the sink used for washing food/equipment. However, in some cases where only low risk foods are being handled on a small scale (such as cake making within a domestic property), the view may be taken that a separate sink is not required (eg. if a dishwasher is in use or if washing up is not carried out whilst food handling).

Hand washing facilities must always be provided in association with a toilet. However, this provision should not be relied upon by food handlers as the only hand washing facility within the food premises.


Toilets must not open directly into rooms where food is handled, they should be separated by a lobby at least and there should be suitable and sufficient means of natural/mechanical ventilation. Hand washing facilities are required for all toilets.

At commercial premises where food and drink is served it is expected that at least one toilet is provided for customer use. For larger scale businesses a greater number of toilets may be required. Please contact the Food Safety Team prior to finalising your plans so more specific guidance can be offered. Exclusive provision of toilets for staff is also recommended, the Health and Safety Executive offers further guidance about providing toilets for workers.

Separate information leaflets are available regarding personal hygiene and fitness to work. If you would like some copies if you need further information, please contact us using the details below.