Legal action looms for restaurants that fail to deal with FOG correctly

Mechline FOG chef

Foodservice operators are leaving themselves open to the prospect of legal action and fines by failing to adequately prevent fats, oils and grease from their kitchens entering the drainage and sewerage network, experts have warned.

Yesterday, we revealed that Severn Trent had successfully prosecuted a Staffordshire restaurant after its poor FOG practices led to nearby businesses being unable to flush their toilets. The restaurant was hit with a bill of almost £5,000 in fines and costs.

And now other water authorities are warning they may have to take similar action unless restaurant owners invest in making sure they have sufficient equipment and training to manage the issue.

There is an estimated 270,000 foodservice establishments in the UK and all operations discharge some amount of fats, oil and grease, starch and other organic matter into the drainage network through FOG sources such as preparation sinks, warewashing equipment, cooking appliances, pot and pre-wash sinks and floor gulleys.

Southern Water is one authority taking a proactive stand against FOG through a campaign based on awareness and education.

Steve Williams, network enforcement protection officer,at Southern Water, said: “Southern Water is committed to a programme of FOG reduction across our region over the next five years, and we are asking all foodservice establishments to assist in our project. At the heart of FOG management is staff training and good housekeeping, supported by an appropriate, well-sized, managed and maintained grease management system, and it is something that every foodservice establishment should have in place in order to avoid any chance of prosecution and large fines.”

The volume of FOG discharge produced by a foodservice operation depends on a variety of factors including menu design, scale and type of operation, and the equipment used.

A multitude of technologies are available in the market, including passive grease traps, automated grease removal units and biological dosing systems.

Experts say that in many cases there is no one “silver bullet”, hence the need for a range of solutions including in some situations a multi-technology approach. A site evaluation will normally identify the most suitable solution and whether one or more applications may be required to manage or treat FOG discharge from the kitchen operation.

Basic passive traps have traditionally been regarded as a stock answer to the issue, however the effective­ness of any grease trap is dependent on the correct sizing/volume capacity and loca­tion of the grease trap sys­tem, temperature of discharge and detergent levels and the ability to meet current BS regulations and indeed hygiene implications.

Other options include automated grease removal systems and accredited biological dosing systems, which can act as supportive complementary technology or as standalone systems.

FOG management specialist and GreasePak provider, Mechline, said it welcomes efforts by water companies to improve understanding of FOG management among foodservice operators.

“Mechline supports the multiple campaigns by the water companies to educate and control FOG discharge in compliance with UK legislation and best practice in the foodservice and hospitality sector,” said Kristian Roberts, marketing manager at Mechline. “However when giving advice we need to give an overview of all the FOG management technologies and choose the correct technology or combination for any given individual site.”

Roberts revealed that Mechline recently came across an operator who was advised by a UK water company that commercial dishwashers must not be connected to grease traps, but directly to sewer. “Unfortunately, this conflicts with advice outlined in the British Water FOG Forum Code of Practice,” he said. “The same correspondence did not advise the operator what technologies could be employed and installed to deal with a recognised FOG discharging product in the kitchen.”

Under section 111 of the Water Industry Act it is an offence to discharge anything into the sewer that may interfere with the free flow.

Severn Trent said yesterday that it clears around 45,000 blockages a year and fat contributes to the majority of those, as it binds together all the other things that end up in the sewer rather than the bin and creates huge lumps which block the sewers.

The company said that while legal action was a “last resort” for it, customers should not have to suffer because of the actions of businesses not following the rules, and ignoring advice.

The British Water publication, ‘Food Service Industry (FOG Forum) Fats, Oils and Grease Code of Practice’ can be downloaded HERE for free.

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