Health and safety 

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Health and safety

All community fridges must register as a food business with their local authority and require it for membership of the Community Fridge Network.

Hubbub doesn’t have an official food safety advisory role. Rather we can signpost you to the information that will help you to safely run a community fridge and join the Community Fridge Network.

This guidance will help you with a checklist of steps for getting your community fridge up and running safely. This draws on guidance from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) which you can find here:

  • Step 1: You must register as a food business with your local authority. You will receive a visit from an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) to make sure that your space is suitable for food storage and sharing. Your EHO is there to help and guide you. Do make the most of their knowledge!
  • Step 2: Conduct a health and safety risk assessment. This allows you to anticipate and plan against things that might go wrong. It might seem a bit daunting to write down all the risks around running a community fridge. However, it greatly reduces the likelihood of things going wrong, and helps you manage the situation if there is an incident.
  • Step 3: Complete Level 2 food safety training so that you know how to handle food and keep it safe. There are many good quality, very affordable, courses available online and they are designed to be simple and clear. The number of people you need to train will depend on your set up. There should always be one trained team member on site who can provide others with advice on how to keep food safe.
  • Step 4: You will need to develop a food safety management system. You might hear the term HACCP (pronounced “Hassap”) used in food safety training, or in a conversation with your EHO. It refers to a Hazard and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system for keeping food safe in food processing and manufacturing, but it can also help you identify and manage the food safety risks that are relevant to your community fridge. FSA Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) guidance (see below) will help you with this.
  • Step 5: you must notify your EHO of any significant changes to your operations after you have started. For example, if you have been running a community fridge and then decide to start cooking a regular community breakfast, you must tell your EHO so that they can help you assess the additional risk and processes needed to do this safely and update your food safety management system as necessary.

Safer Food, Better Business

The Food Standards Agency has created a simplified guide called Safer Food, Better Business for small food businesses. It can help you develop a food safety management system based on HACCP principles but cuts out some of the complexity and jargon that is more relevant to larger food operations.

Your HACCP or food safety system may depend on the activity you’re undertaking. For example some community fridges offer cooking classes or cook community meals, while others mostly or solely share pre-packaged, ambient surplus food. Your EHO can help you find the right guidance to follow.

Community fridge volunteers dropping off a food donation.


If you are in any doubt or if there’s a food safety incident at your community fridge, contact your local food safety team for support. There’s a handy locator here:

Most, if not all, community fridges collect surplus food from food businesses such as supermarkets and should take the following steps to ensure that food is safely transported and shared.

  1. Do not accept any donations that are opened, damaged or missing their ingredients label unless it’s a single ingredient item i.e. apples.
  2. Check use by or best before dates.
  3. Transport any chilled or frozen foods in a cool bag to keep below 8 degrees. If you don’t have a cool bag, make sure you know how long food has been on display or kept out, and check its temperature regularly. Food that has not been used within four hours can be put back in the fridge and kept at 8°C or below until it is used. If it has been out for more than four hours it should be thrown away.
  4. Refrigerate chilled foods immediately on arrival at the community fridge.
  5. Log the food source and amount.
  6. Ensure that all foods being shared have ingredients listed, including the main allergens.

It is the fridge co-ordinator's job to make sure everyone is aware of any product recalls. This is when a food producer or seller asks for their product to be returned because there might be a food safety problem.

To keep on top of this, the easiest way is to sign up for recall alerts with the Food Standards Agency (FSA). That way, you can make sure the food you're sharing is safe and sound.

Key health and safety checks

As a result of a rule called Natasha's Law every packaged food item coming into your community fridge must list all its ingredients on its packaging with any of the 14 major allergens it contains in bold.

In order to run the fridge safely you must only accept food items that are clearly labelled and packaged by the food business or retailer. That includes individual bakery items too. So, if it's packaged and not labelled, you can't accept it.

Most food businesses, particularly those that prepare and/or cook food on site, will have to consider most or all of what we call the Four Cs of food safety at different times. The FSA website has more information on cooking temperatures and the Four C’s:

For food prep and storage, all surfaces, appliances and tools/utensils, along with hands, must be kept clean. Hot soapy water and sanitising spray should be used at opening, closing down and every time food is handled and prepared throughout the day.

Use separate cloths or sponges for different tasks, wash thoroughly between uses and ensure they are laundered at the end of every day.

  • Make sure all cooked food is piping hot and cooked through before serving by checking with a probe thermometer.
  • Record cooking temperatures in your HAACP or food safety folder or log.
  • Keep raw foods separate from cooked and ready-to-eat food at all times. In particular keep raw meat, fish, poultry and other raw foods away from ready-to-eat foods such as salads, bread and sandwiches.

    Never put cooked food on a plate which has previously held raw foods until it has been thoroughly washed.

    Use separate chopping boards for raw and cooked foods
  • Wash hands after handling raw foods and before touching other foods and utensils.

    Wash or change dish cloths, tea towels, sponges and oven gloves regularly. It's important to let them dry before you use them again. This is because dirty, damp cloths allow bacteria to breed.
  • Do not put hot food directly into the fridge or freezer as it may bring up the temperature to an unsafe level.
  • Let it cool sufficiently first; but remember that cooling should be completed within one or two hours after cooking, depending on the food type.
  • To speed cooling divide foods into smaller portions.
  • Check the temperature of your fridge (and freezer if relevant) at the beginning and end of each day.
  • Ensure that all chilled foods are put into the fridge immediately upon arrival the fridge site.

Ready for more?

You've taken the leap into setting up a community fridge! Now, it's time to shape the physical and logistical elements of your project. Here, we'll dive into the physical space that you’ll host your fridge, any important equipment, and how to make it accessible.