Food Law Practice Guidance

3.2 Registration of Food Establishments

Last updated:
26 October 2015

3.2.1 What is a food establishment?

A food establishment is defined in EU law as a “unit of a food business”.  Such a unit undertaking any of the activities of a food business must be registered as a food establishment.

Registration is not required for establishments undertaking the following food activities:

  • Occasional handling of food: The European Commission ‘guidance document on the implementation of certain provisions of Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs’[1] states that “somebody who handles, prepares, stores or serves food occasionally and on a small scale cannot be considered as an “undertaking” (i.e. those operations deemed not to have a “certain degree of organisation” and “a continuity of activities”) and is therefore not subject to the EU hygiene legislation[2].” The FSA’s guidance document on ‘Community and charity food provision – guidance on the application of EU food hygiene law’[3], has been published to provide clarity both for competent authorities and those running community and charity operations on which charity and community food provision might need registration;
  • Primary production for private domestic use or the domestic preparation, handling or storage of food for private domestic consumption;
  • Small quantities[4] of primary products supplied directly by the producer to the final consumer or to local retail establishments directly supplying the final consumer;
  • Food establishments handling products of animal origin that are subject to approval under Regulation (EC) No 853/2004[5]; and
  • Collection centres and tanneries which fall within the definition of food business only because they handle raw material for the production of gelatine or collagen.

Fig 1 provides a consideration tree to help determine which food activities require registration with the Competent Authority.


Explanatory notes:

1. Community Regulations do not apply to primary production for private domestic use or to the domestic preparation, handling or storage of food for private domestic consumption (Regulation 178/2002, Chapter 1, Article 1.3 and Regulation 852/2004, Article 1.2(b)).

2. This means any stage, including import, from and including the primary production of a food, up to and including its storage, transport, sale or supply to the final consumer (Regulation 178/2002, Chapter 1, Article 3.16).

3. ‘Undertaking’ is not defined in food law but the EC commission document suggests that an undertaking is not somebody who handles, prepares, stores or serves food occasionally and on a small scale.

4. Continuity of activities (Recital 9, Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004)  – the FSA’s view is that generally operations providing food less frequently than on an average monthly basis should be considered as not having a continuity of activity and should not require registration (see below).

5. Degree of organisation (Recital 9, Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004) – the FSA’s view is that the following issues should be considered when deciding how much any given operation can be said to be organised: foodstuffs and risk, and nature of event. This is set out in more detail in the FSA’s Guidance on the application of EU food hygiene law to community and charity food provision.

6. Competent Authorities should advise that if food operations change, they should contact the relevant Competent Authority to check whether registration is subsequently required. 

7. Approval guidance available at:

8. Template registration form available in the Code and online registration at:

9. If the business is a childminder registered with OFSTED after 2014, then a separate food registration is not required. Details on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the FSA and OFSTED can be found here:


[2] However, such establishments remain subject to the provisions of the Food Safety Act 1990 and the general requirements of Regulation (EC) No.178/2002

[4] For further information see guidance on approval of food establishment at footnote 5.

3.2.2 Who is a food business operator?

Regulation 178/2002 defines a food business operator (FBO) as the natural or legal persons responsible for ensuring the requirements of food law are met within the food business under their control.

A natural person is a human being, as opposed to an artificial, legal or juristic person, i.e. an organisation that the law treats for some purposes as if it were a person distinct from its members or owner.

A legal person has a legal name and has rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and liabilities under law, just as natural persons (humans) do. Legal personality allows one or more natural persons to act as a single entity (such as a limited company - considered under law separately from its individual members or shareholders) for legal purposes.

When considering who to register as the FBO under Article 6(2) of Regulation 852/2004, Competent Authorities should request that the FBO identifies themselves, including the name of the operator in the case of legal persons, address and type of business entity on the registration form.

The types of business entity are defined according to the legal system for an individual country but may include incorporated bodies, partnerships, sole traders and other specialised types of organisation.

3.2.3 Registration procedure            Requirement to register a food establishment under Article 6(2) of Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004

FBOs should be encouraged to register their establishment 28 days before they begin operating. Competent Authorities are encouraged to make information available to businesses on the requirements relating to registration.  

There may be situations when an FBO registers as a food business in advance of 28 days before they intend to start operations. The FSA’s view is that in such circumstances, Competent Authorities may find it useful to avoid inputting registrations onto their databases until they have confirmation that those businesses have started or have an imminent date to start operations. This could mean keeping a temporary record of such businesses with some periodic checks to verify if they have commenced food operations.

If registration relates to a business that includes more than one mobile unit, the FBO should provide details of all mobile units that they own (i.e. registration/identification numbers, identifying features, types of facilities, food types etc.). Annex 5 of the Code contains a model registration form; this can be amended to make provision for this additional information.            Channels of registration

Where information about the address of the establishment and the activity carried out is already available from other sources, that information may be used for registration purposes, as illustrated below:

  • Establishments at the level of primary production that have been registered with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) prior to 1 December 2006 are considered registered for the purposes of Article 6(2) of Regulation 852/2004.
  • A joint agreement is in place between the FSA and Ofsted which removes the need for childminders in England to register separately as a FBO. Childminder registration with Ofsted is accepted for the purposes of food business registration under Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004. Childminders that undertake food activities remain legally defined as FBOs and subject to food law.

Ofsted routinely provide details of registered childminders to Local Education Authorities (LEAs) within higher tier authorities. It is recommended that a mechanism be in place for LEAs to pass this data to the relevant Competent Authority and where possible provide intelligence on which childminders are regularly supplying food.

Childminders are made aware of their duties in food law on registering with Ofsted and provided with targeted food safety advice. They are urged to contact the relevant Competent Authority directly where their food activities may present a higher risk.            Change of ownership following registration

Competent Authorities may come across changes of ownership during interventions at food establishments. The FBO by virtue of Article 6(2) of Regulation 852/2004 is required to notify the Competent Authority of any significant changes, which includes change of ownership.  Not complying with this requirement may be an offence under the Food Hygiene Regulations 2013.

Table 1 outlines circumstances in which changes of ownership have been identified and therefore a new registration form should be completed by the FBO. 

Table 1 – Change of FBO scenarios – when a new registration is required.

Existing FBO (as stated on food  establishment registration document

Change of FBO (assuming no other changes to the business)

Registration status


New registration required?

Sole trader, partnership or incorporated company (e.g. Ltd, PLC, etc.)

Different sole trader, partnership or incorporated company takes over ownership.


Discontinuation of operator/s


Sole trader or Partnership

Company incorporated (and registered), sole trader or partner/s become Director/s.


Creation of a company changes the legal matrix of FBOs


Sole trader

Creation of a partnership where the sole traders is one of the partners.


Continuation of operator



Dissolved and one of the partners takes over sole ownership and becomes a sole trader.


Continuation of operator



New partner joins or a partner leaves (also refer to dissolved partnerships) as long as there is a continuation of at least one partner.


Continuation of operator


Incorporated company

Company goes into administration and is being run as a going concern by the administrators.


Discontinuation of operator/s


Incorporated company in administration

Company taken over from administrators by a different sole trader, partnership or incorporated company.


Discontinuation of operator/s, registration expires


Sole trader, Partnership or Incorporated Company

Bankruptcy, insolvency or in liquidation (wound up/dissolved).



Not applicable

*Although the registration status is ‘retained’, the FBO should notify the change to the Competent Authority, and a record of this noted.

Other business types such as cooperatives, registered charities and other specialised types of organisation (e.g. establishments under the control of a board/committee) should be treated on a case-by-case basis to identify the natural person or legal person required to be compliant with food law within the food business under their control.

3.2.4 Multisite and satellite operations            Multiple premises constituting a single food establishment

There are circumstances where a single registration, under the same FBO, is permissible of a food business operating at multiple sites. This is dependent on the associated sites comprising a single establishment meeting all the criteria laid out in of the Code.  However, it should be made clear to the FBO that non-compliance in one site, may result in the downgrading of the overall rating (both intervention and FHRS ratings) of the entire operation.  

This flexible approach may be applied in circumstances whereby the single registration of multiple sites under the same food business operator as one retail operation is permissible. This is, however, subject to one or more of those sites having a genuine retail element.  Due to the practicalities of an officer maintaining the necessary ongoing oversight and assessment of such set-ups operating as a single establishment, it is recommended that this flexibility is only applied to establishments within the same food authority boundary, unless on specific occasions as described in paragraph

This flexibility is mainly to remove the need for the approval of smaller food businesses where the processing of products of animal origin (POAO) and the retail element (i.e. the place or point of supply to the consumer) are not at the same ‘site’ but there is a strong association between sites and a single ‘controlling mind’ overseeing the activities. However it can also apply to operations where none of the sites would require approval but could reduce the need for multiple registrations. The controlling mind will have sole and effective control of the HACCP based procedures from the production site through their own retail outlet/s to the final consumer.

The FSA accepts that with some businesses the “controlling mind” may be more than one person. However, the FSA does not consider that this could extend to operations where, although being one enterprise, different individuals manage different sites as separate legal entities in their own right.

There must also be a single system of integrated HACCP based controls. This may include risk based food safety management controls that are proportionate to the activities being undertaken at the different sites, but they must form part of an overall system that is under the operational direction of the single “controlling mind”.            Enforcement and oversight of multi-sites operating as a single establishment

There will be occasions where businesses meeting the criteria set out above operate across Competent Authority boundaries. Due to the practicalities of an officer maintaining the necessary ongoing oversight and assessment of such set-ups operating as a single establishment, it is recommended that the relevant competent  authorities consider together whether it is practical to put in place a procedure that allows this flexibility in those circumstances. This is particularly pertinent in situations where it could result in a reduction in the regulatory burden to the business such as where approval would otherwise apply.

This flexibility is discretionary and will require authorised officers to assess on a case-by-case basis whether a business meets the single food establishment criteria. A record of the assessment and the supporting reasons should be recorded on the relevant establishment files.  The FBO has the option not to adopt this arrangement and request for separate registrations of the multi-sites should they wish to do so.

The following are examples of where the concept of a ‘single food establishment’ flexibility may or may not be appropriate. These are in no way prescriptive or exhaustive and are for illustrative purposes only.

Examples of where a single food establishment registration may be appropriate:

Example 1 - Catering for satellite sites

A catering establishment or ‘hub kitchen’ which doesn’t have a servery on site, but prepares food to be transported to one or several local retail outlets, or ‘satellite kitchens’ managed by the same FBO, to be served directly to the final consumer with no onward distribution . The food may be transported hot or cold but will not undergo any further processing at the retail end other than basic hot holding, reheating and perhaps some simple, low risk preparation.


Example 2 - Supply to retail outlet

A small manufacturing unit which produces speciality cheese to sell in its nearby high street deli shop. The same FBO or ‘controlling mind’ owns and manages the two premises, whose main focus is to sell direct to the final consumer with no further distribution to other retail businesses. The FBO has developed a HACCP plan and a food safety management system for the speciality cheese, which flows from production through to service at the deli (retail outlet).

Note: This type of business (manufacturing certain POAO) would be subject to approval, if the manufacturing unit’s products were mainly supplied to other businesses operated by other FBOs. (See 3.3 of the Code and this Practice Guidance)



Example 3 - Multi-units on the same site

  1. Motorway services: Several non-branded food retail units at a motorway service station, including a coffee shop, snack bar, and a restaurant are managed centrally by one FBO and all food supplied to the units is prepared in a central kitchen on site or bought in through the company’s approved supplier list. One food safety management system covers the operation as a whole.
  1. Motorway services: A branded coffee chain which has a main coffee shop plus two fixed smaller satellite units inside the service station and a mobile vehicle which operates within the curtilage of the site, all of which come under the same limited company and are overseen by the same on site manager or ‘controlling mind’. 
  1. Superstore: A large supermarket which supplies its own on site petrol station with pre-packed food. Transfer, storage and display of food at the petrol station are accounted for in the HACCP plan for the store and is managed by the same ‘controlling mind’.



Examples of when this flexibility would not apply and therefore separate registration and/or approval of each establishment is appropriate:

Example 1 - Catering for satellite sites

A catering company manufactures a variety of foods and supplies two restaurants. Although, the catering company also owns both of the restaurants, further high risk food production and processing takes place at the two restaurants and so each establishment has a separate food safety management system which is managed locally to control the different risks at the respective premises. In this case, the complexity of food controls at the different sites and the lack of effective control of the whole food safety management system by a ‘single mind’ means that the single establishment criteria are not fulfilled and the single establishment flexibility should not be applied.



Example 2 - Supply to retail outlet

A bakery supplies freshly baked food product such as meat pies to various retail outlets which are part of the same company. The branches are located in various local authority districts and each branch has a local manager to implement the company policies and procedures, including the food safety management procedures. The bakery and the outlets are not close enough in proximity for one FBO to manage them all effectively and there is more than one ‘controlling mind’ responsible for implementing the food safety procedures at each site. Because the main bakery site processes raw POAO and supplies the resulting products the retail outlets, this site could be subject to approval under Regulation (EC) No 853/2004.


3.2.5 Moveable establishments            Trains and coaches

Individual trains and coaches are not subject to separate registration but the FBO should register any other establishment or static unit undertaking activities of the food business. Registering Competent Authorities for the main establishment should inspect a representative number of train cars providing foodstuffs (such as buffets and dining cars) where the food service units across the stock are of similar design and operate to common food safety management procedures.  Where main establishments and train victualing operations are co-located the registering Competent Authority itself can undertake these inspections.            Mobile food establishments

A mobile food establishment is required to register with the Competent Authority (i.e. the registering Competent Authority) in which it is ordinarily kept overnight (e.g. this could be at the private residence house of the owner of a van).  A non-permanent market stall is required to register with the Competent Authority in which its food stock is ordinarily kept. Following registration, the FBO should not be asked to register with any other Competent Authority in whose area it trades.

This does not limit other inspecting Competent Authorities carrying out official controls of the activities undertaken by a mobile food business or stall that operates in their area. However, inspecting Competent Authorities should contact the registering Competent Authority before any intervention to determine whether an inspection is due and if so, the type of intervention that may be appropriate in the circumstances. The registering Competent Authority has the discretion to decide whether it needs to undertake any specific intervention, e.g. in circumstances, where full inspection has been carried out by the inspecting Competent Authority in whose area the mobile operates. To ensure consistency and to avoid ‘over inspection’, the inspecting Competent Authority must provide the registering Competent Authority with information relating to interventions undertaken of mobiles operating their area.

Details of interventions and enforcement action should be passed to the registering Competent Authority as soon as possible, following an intervention. The registering Competent Authority should take account of information supplied in determining the Intervention Rating, and when this should be revised in accordance with Chapter 5.6 of the Code and recorded on the Competent Authority’s database of food establishments.

Competent Authorities may use the following arrangements developed by Tees Valley Food Liaison Group as best practice when awarding ratings (both intervention and FHRS) for mobile food businesses in their area:


Tees Valley Arrangement for Rating of Mobile Food Businesses 

Under Article 6 (2) of Regulation (EC) 852/2004, mobile food establishments are required to register with the local authority in which they are ordinarily kept and for non-permanent market stalls, the local authority in which their stocks of food are ordinarily kept. Once the establishment is registered it should not be asked to register with any other local authority in whose areas it trades.

Mobile establishments and market stalls may be subject to inspection or other intervention by the local authority in whose area the establishment is found to be trading. In accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice, details of any intervention or enforcement activity carried out by a local authority should be passed to the local authority that has registered the business

The local authority that has registered the business shall determine the intervention rating, in accordance with Chapter 5.6 of the Food Law Code of Practice, and record this on the authority’s food premises database. When making this determination the authority will consider any information supplied to it by other local authorities in respect to the business. In some cases the business may never trade in its area and it may be more appropriate for another LA to undertake responsibility for rating the business under FHRS by agreement.

The Tees Valley Local Food Liaison Group has considered the FHRS ‘Brand Standard’ as it relates to Mobile Food Traders and has agreed the following approach for traders operating within Tees Valley using three categories of trader:

1. Those registered and operating within the same local authority; or

2. Those registered in one local authority but trading primarily in another local authority area; or

3. Those registered in one local authority but trading at a number of different sites across a number of local authorities.

Arrangements for each of the above categories will be:

1. For the first category, the registering authority should undertake interventions, and rate the unit for FHRS.

2. For the second category the inspecting authority will liaise with the registration authority and will propose the following arrangement:

a) The inspecting authority will be responsible for rating for FHRS the mobile and any appeals, right to reply and rescoring requests.

b) The Registering’ Authority may continue to inspect but will not score the unit for FHRS to avoid duplication (Reason: 1: the public are more likely to search the FHRS website for food businesses at their trading address and 2: the registering authority will not have seen the food business operating.)

c) Inspecting Authority will forward a copy of the ‘report of inspection’ to the registering authority.

c). Registering authority will forward a copy of their ‘report of inspection’ if and when they inspect it so that account can be taken of this when calculating FHRS rating.

3. For the third category the Registering Authority will, if possible, inspect the unit and score for FHRS. If this is not possible, the registering authority will record the findings of the inspecting authority and issue the food hygiene rating. It remains the responsibility of an Inspecting Authority to liaise with the Registering Authority, forward a copy of any ‘report of inspection’ and avoid duplication of interventions where possible.            Mobile food business with multiple units

In certain circumstances, registering Competent Authorities will need to consider whether a mobile retail unit is a separate establishment or can be considered for the discretionary single registration provision as described at section

In cases where an FBO owns several mobile units selling a variety of different foodstuffs each of which is separately managed and each has distinctly separate HACCP-based procedures, each mobile unit should be considered for separate registration – they would not fall under the discretionary single registration.            Sources of information on mobile food establishments

The Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS) have developed NCASS Connect, an online database that allows FBOs to store documents such as registration documents, staff training records and HACCP-based procedures for the establishment.  The database includes records for a range of catering establishments and mobile food businesses. 

NCASS Connect:

Free access to this service is available to Competent Authorities to view uploaded documents by NCASS members as well as any non-NCASS members using the service. The database may also help in obtaining information on a mobile trader scheduled to attend a local event and identify any that have not registered. NCASS currently have a Primary Authority Partnership with Cherwell District Council. See: for further details, including details of any inspections plans.            Food hygiene rating scheme mobile trader’s resources

Template letters and other materials are available to help local authorities apply the guidance on mobile traders that is set out in the FHRS 'Brand Standard'. The materials include a template letter and form for an inspecting authority to forward intervention information, and template letters and an agreement to help transfer FHRS responsibility from one local authority to another.


3.2.6 Other types of establishments            Food businesses operating out of domestic premises such as home caterers and B&Bs

The domestic preparation, handling or storage of food which is to be placed on the market (whether free of charge or not) and which meets the definition of a ‘food business’, is subject to registration requirements and should be registered with the Competent Authority where the undertaking takes place.            Domiciliary care / assisted living care

Food business registration will apply where it is considered that the care service operations fall within the legal definition of a ‘food business’. If registration is required then the establishment itself should be registered even if some operations carried out by the establishment do not need to form part of the registration. For more information refer to the FSA’s guidance on “The application of food hygiene legislation to domiciliary care, assisted living and care homes’.[1]            Food banks

Food banks run by community volunteers, if they meet the definition of a food business, will require registration and will need to comply with food law proportionately. Some food banks will be exempt from registration if they do not meet the food business definition (i.e. Recital 9 of Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004). The FSA’s guidance on ‘Community and charity food provision – guidance on the application of EU food hygiene law’[2], should help you determine this.            Food brokers

Certain businesses are specialised in trading food (food brokers).  While they may arrange for the movement of food between suppliers or to retailers, they do not necessarily handle the food or even store it on their establishment (which may effectively be an office).  Provided they meet the definition of “food business” and “food business operator”, then the registration requirement applies, and must be registered with the Competent Authority in which they undertake the work.

In respect of product of animal origin, Article 18 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, as amplified by Regulation (EC) No. 931/2011[3] on traceability requirements for food of animal origin, places a duty on the FBO, including food brokers, to be able to identify and provide specific traceability information to the competent authority.            Internet sales

Certain businesses offer their goods for sale via the internet.  Although such trade is not specifically referred to in Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004, such businesses fall within the definition of a food business and the relevant requirements of food law are applicable to them. Such businesses must register with the most appropriate Competent Authority. This may be where they live, where their office is located or where the food stocks are stored.            Temporary establishments

Temporary food businesses which ‘pop up’ in different locations should be treated in the same way as mobile food establishments for the purposes of registration.            Vending machines

Vending machines are subject to the relevant provisions of Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004. The FSA does not see practical value in the registration of individual vending machines or the establishment on which they are sited if the only food related activity on those establishments relates solely to vending machines. However, distribution centres where food for stocking vending machines is stored and/or from which food is transported to vending machines for stocking should be registered with the relevant Competent Authority. The delivery vehicles used for the transport of food for stocking vending machines should be covered in the interventions at such establishments.