Pop-up restaurants have been told they must comply with food safety regulations and register with local councils before trading.
The warning, from auditing service provider Lloyd’s Register, follows a huge increase in street food and pop-up restaurant vendors in the UK in recent years.
The mobile catering boom has raised fears that some vendors could cut corners with food safety regulations and in their food handling and storage regimes.
Justine Wadge, technical consultant, customised assurance at Lloyd’s Register, said pop-ups are governed by the same regulations as permanent restaurants.
“There is a misconception that the transient and temporary nature of pop-up restaurants means that they aren’t governed by the same regulations, such as the Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations 2013 or the Regulation (EC) 852/2004. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the food regulatory regime in the UK.”
Ms Wadge says that over-stretched council resources are also potentially creating holes in the system.
“Local councils just don’t have the resources to deal with the pop-up restaurant explosion, particularly when some vendors may only be on site for one or two days. If there are not enough local environmental health inspectors this could cause the unaware to unwittingly carry out practices that could lead to a food poisoning outbreak and encourage the unscrupulous to try and cut corners.
“Even if a vendor is only in one location for a few days, temporary food businesses must still register with the local council, specifically the environmental health inspectors.”
The rise in pop-up restaurants in the UK has taken many forms, from market stalls to food trucks and vacant shop units.
Ultimately, predicts Ms Wadge, it will reach a stage where self-policing forms a large part of the regulatory solution.
“It is the responsibility of the pop-up to ensure that they are doing things properly. The old safety net of council inspections is no longer there and that leaves vendors more and more exposed.
“Training is key for all pop-up vendors, particularly with basic hygiene and food storage principles, such as separate worktops for raw and ready to eat preparation, refrigeration, cleaning stations and personal hygiene.”
“Without the proper food handling and storage techniques, pop-up restaurants risk leaving themselves open to prosecution and civil claims if anything goes wrong. What’s more, with recent changes to the sentencing guidelines, businesses could be facing large penalties for infringements of the regulations.”