Requirements for the Location, Design and Construction of Food Premises

Before starting your food business, carefully consider the location. You must also look at the design and construction requirements of your food premises.

A poorly selected location and incorrect design and construction can cost you dearly. Building and renovation costs are not cheap!

There are specific requirements (laws, regulations and standards) for the location, design and construction of food premises.

Briefly, food premises should not pose a health hazard and should always promote Food Safety. The hygienic handling and protection of food from all types of contamination is key.

Let’s look at the general basic requirements for the location, design and construction of food premises.

This article refers to the requirements of Regulation (Clause) 5 (STANDARDS AND REQUIREMENTS FOR FOOD PREMISES) of Regulation R638 of 2018, which governs the general hygiene requirements for food premises, the transport of food and related matters in South Africa.

This article also provides additional information for clarity.

Please read our Disclaimers and Disclosures page. We do not provide legal advice.

Location of the Food Premises

The surrounding environment plays a significant role in the location of food premises.

Ask yourself if there is anything on or near the location that may pose a risk to Food Safety that you cannot prevent or control?

*Consider any potential sources of contamination, keeping the following in mind:

  • Air pollutants. For example, poisonous or offensive gases, odours, vapours, smoke, dust, or soot deposits.
  • Water pollution.
  • Soil pollution.
  • Excessive moisture may affect food products or food hygiene.
  • Insects and other vectors. Vectors are any living organisms, for example rats and mice, which can transmit infectious pathogens between humans or from animals to humans.
  • Other biological, physical and chemical hazards, including unintended allergens.
  • Other agents not mentioned above.

*Food handling establishments should NOT be located nearby:

  • Heavily polluted areas and industrial activities can pose a significant threat to Food Safety.
  • Areas where it is impossible to effectively remove solid and / or liquid wastes.
  • Any locations subject to flooding unless there are sufficient safeguards in place.
  • Any areas prone to pest infestations.

It is a challenge for many food businesses to avoid areas prone to pest infestations.

Most of the biggest cities in the world have rat infestation problems.

The best solution is to have strict and effective pest control measures in place.

PESTS ARE NOT ALLOWED ON FOOD PREMISES NO MATTER WHAT!

Why cities can’t get rid of rats

Interior Surfaces of Food Handling Areas

In this section, the emphasis is specifically on food-handling areas.

Interior surfaces include walls, partitions, roofs with or without ceilings, floors or any other similar vertical or horizontal surfaces, for example, pillars or beams.

This topic excludes the requirements for surfaces of equipment and facilities.

*The following basic requirements apply to the interior surfaces of food handling areas:

  • Surfaces should not have any open joints or seams. Contaminants can accumulate in open joints and seams. It can also harbour pests and make cleaning difficult.
  • Surfaces must be smooth.
  • Surfaces must be rust-free and corrosion-resistant.
  • Surfaces must be non-toxic.
  • Surfaces must be made of non-absorbent material that is dust-proof and water-resistant.
  • Surfaces must be cleanable and easy to clean.

*The following IS ALLOWED in food-serving and storage areas:

  • Face brick or similar walls. The joints must be properly formed and finished to promote easy cleaning.
  • Decorative walls or ceiling finishes must promote easy cleaning.

Face brick or similar walls, decorative walls, and ceiling finishes in food-serving and storage areas must be of such a nature that they cannot contaminate or contribute to food contamination.

Keep in mind face brick walls are naturally absorbent and not waterproof. This makes them difficult to clean and easy to harbour contaminants.

The recommendation is to waterproof face brick walls.

Face brick walls

Ventilation

All areas of food premises must have sufficient ventilation. The ventilation should provide adequate fresh air and effectively remove polluted or stale air, to ensure healthy and hygienic conditions of the food premises.

Polluted and stale air includes:

  • Air contaminants that can contaminate food.
  • Gasses, vapours, steam and warm air arising during food handling.

Natural and/or artificial ventilation is acceptable.

Requirements for Natural Ventilation

Natural ventilation includes openings or openable sections positioned in the external walls or roof directly connected to the outside environment, for example, windows, doors and vents.

It’s important to screen and pest-proof natural ventilation systems.

Natural ventilation should promote effective cross-ventilation. For example, having only a tiny window as the only means of ventilation in a room is not sufficient.

If you only have natural ventilation in a room, the openings must have a surface area of at least 5% of the floor area.

Natural ventilation is usually not very effective in areas that generate steam or smoke, for example, a restaurant kitchen.

Requirements for Artificial (Mechanical) Ventilation

Artificial ventilation systems can include air-conditioning, exhausts, ductwork, fans, extraction units, etc.

Extractor fan
Extractor fans

Artificial ventilation must comply with legal building requirements, like the requirements of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, 1977 (Act No. 103 of 1977).

Ineffective and poorly maintained ventilation systems can contribute to unhealthy conditions and food contamination.

It’s important to ensure your ventilation system is working properly and maintained.


Illumination and Lighting

All areas of food premises must be illuminated, providing adequate lighting for employees to see what they are doing. Inadequate illumination can cause a health hazard to staff and indirectly affect Food Safety.

Unobstructed transparent surfaces in external walls or roofs which admit daylight and/or artificial illumination are acceptable.

Requirements for Transparent Surfaces

If you only have transparent surfaces in a room, it must have a surface area of at least 10% of the floor area in the room concerned.

Examples of transparent surfaces are windows, sky roofs, transparent domes, etc.

Requirements for Artificial Illumination

Artificial illumination must comply with legal requirements, like the requirements of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, 1977 (Act No. 103 of 1977), which permits an illumination strength of at least 200 lux.

Artificial Illumination
Artificial Illumination

The nature of the operation plays a significant role in the lighting requirements of food premises, especially food-handling areas.

Adjust for more lighting if the minimum requirement of at least 200 lux is insufficient.

Protect lighting fixtures to prevent glass breakage from directly or indirectly contaminating food.


Wash-up Facilities

All food premises should have wash-up facilities with HOT and COLD water to clean facilities, for example, dishes.

Wash-up facilities are different from handwashing facilities. It is not allowed to use wash-up facilities for handwashing.

Wash-up facilities

RECOMMENDATIONS

Where possible, keep wash-up facilities separate from the food handling / preparation area.

Don’t rinse fruit and vegetables in the same basin where you wash your dishes. Use a separate basin.


Pest-proofing

Facilities must be pest-proof. Pests are not allowed on food premises, and there are no exceptions.

Examples to pest-proof your food premises (to only mention a few):

  • Seal any gaps or holes that may harbour or allow pests from entering your food premises.
  • Use screens in front of doors and windows.
  • Use self-closing units for doors.
  • Keep the gaps under doors to a minimum. A good option is to use door brushes.
  • Store all food in pest-proof containers with tight-fitting lids.
  • Have a proper waste management system in place, including the storage and disposal of waste.
  • Keep your food premises (inside and outside) clean and free from anything that may attract pests.

Keep pest-proofing in mind during the design and construction of your food premises.


Waste Control

Food premises must have a waste-water disposal system and controlled refuse approved by the local authority.

Waste control plays a big part in controlling pests.

Waste bins for food handling areas.
Waste control in a food-handling area.

Consider the following during waster control:

  • How waste will be stored and removed.
  • When waste will be stored and removed.
  • Where to store waste until removal.
  • How and when to clean waste containers and waste storage areas.
  • The requirements for waste containers. For example, tight-fitting lids, easy-to-clean and liquid proof.
  • The types of waste, for example, food waste, general waste, hazardous waste, etc.

Toilet Facilities

Food premises must have sanitary conveniences (toilet facilities) for staff members and customers who consume food on the premises. The sanitary conveniences should include toilets, urinals and handwashing basins.

It is not necessary to separate toilet facilities for staff and customers.

There must be separate toilet facilities for different sexes, UNLESS only one sex is working on the premises OR if no more than 10 people work on the premises.

See the requirements for sanitary conveniences in the image below (referring to Annexure D of Regulation R638)

Handwashing Facilities

Food premises must have handwashing facilities. Regulation R638 stipulates where possible hot water must be provided for handwashing facilities. This means, if handwashing facilities only have cold water, it is still acceptable.

Remember, wash-up facilities and handwashing facilities are NOT the same things. You cannot wash your hands where you wash your dishes and wash your dishes where you wash your hands.

Many food establishments, for example, restaurants only provide cold water for handwashing, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Numerous studies show that the temperature of the water does not play a role in removing germs from hands. What matters is the time you take washing your hands with soap, and using the correct handwashing technique, which makes the difference.

Here is a list of what you need for your handwashing facilities:

  • Potable running water.
  • A supply of soap or any other cleaning agents suitable for handwashing.
  • Clean disposable hand-drying material or equipment, for example, disposable paper towels or air dryers. No reusable cloth towels are allowed. Only use disposable paper towels (not air dryers), for handwashing facilities situated in the food-handling areas.

Storage Space for Food, Equipment and Facilities

Food premises must have sufficient storage space for the hygienic storage of food, equipment and facilities.

There must be a suitable separate area for the hygienic storage and cleaning of refuse containers.

Example: Walk-in coolers for meat

Examples of storage spaces:

  • Receiving areas
  • Distribution areas
  • Walk-in coolers
  • Display areas
  • Cabinets
  • Waste disposal storage areas

Staff Facilities – Changing and Locker Rooms

Staff Changing Rooms
Staff changing room with lockers

Food premises must have a separate changing room with storage facilities for staff clothing.

Water Supply

Food premises must have an adequate supply of potable water.

Requirements for Areas Connecting to Food Handling Areas

Certain areas should not have a direct connection to food handling areas.

  • These include areas in which gas, fumes, dust, soot deposits, offensive odours or any other impurities are present, that could spoil or contaminate the food-handling area.
  • Any areas in which an act is performed or where conditions exist that could spoil or contaminate the food in a food-handling area.
  • Changing areas unless certain conditions are met (see below).
  • Toilet facilities unless certain conditions are met (see below).

Conditions for Changing Areas Connecting to Food Handling Areas

Changing areas can connect to food handling areas if the following conditions are met.

With a Properly Ventilated Lobby Separating the Areas

  • The relevant inter-connecting doors must cover the entire door frame (no gaps).
  • The inter-connecting doors must have durable self-closing devices.

Without a Properly Ventilated Lobby Separating the Areas

  • The connecting door must cover the entire door frame (no gaps).
  • The connecting door must have a durable self-closing device.

Conditions for Toilet Facilities Connecting to Food Handling Areas

Toilet facilities can connect to food handling areas if the following conditions are met.

With a Properly Ventilated Lobby Separating the Areas

  • The relevant inter-connecting doors must cover the entire door frame (no gaps).
  • The inter-connecting doors must have durable self-closing devices.

Without a Properly Ventilated Lobby Separating the Areas

  • The connecting door must cover the entire door frame (no gaps).
  • The connecting door must have a durable self-closing device.
  • The toilet facilities must have effective mechanical extraction ventilation to the outside air.

Conclusion

Before you decide where you want to start your food business take the basic legal requirements for the location, design and construction of your area into consideration.

There are different legal requirements for different countries and regions in the world, but most of the basics apply everywhere.

As a food handling business, what is your biggest challenge in relation to the topics discussed in this article?

Please leave us a comment in the comment section below if you have any questions, need more clarity, or would like to add your opinion.


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