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Best practice for food businesses

Cost of living crisis

In the wake of sky-high inflation and energy bills, disruption to global supply chains and the war in Ukraine, we understand the financial strain that many companies are under now. 

We’ve seen first hand the damage that drain blockages can cause, and your business being flooded with sewage is the last thing anyone wants. Fats, Oil, Greases (FOGs) and leftover food going down your pipes become solid, block the drains, and can cause that sewage flooding.  

Between being forced to close to clean-up, losing sales from a bad customer reputation and potential fines, the costs can add up quickly. 

The best and cheapest way to deal with sewage flooding is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Keep reading below to find out what you can do. 

Best practice

Running a professional kitchen is hard enough. But when your premises are flooded with sewage or you can’t flush the toilet, the cost can be more than just the plumber’s bill. Your customers may well remember you for the sewage incident and not your menu.

Whether you’re an independent food business, or responsible for the catering of a larger organisation, there are plenty of simple things you can do to help reduce the chances of this happening to you.

Here are five quick tips to think about now:

  • Washing up – don’t wash cooking fats, oils or greases down the sink.
  • The sink – always use a sink strainer and scrape any leftover food into the bin.
  • Floors – don’t sweep rubbish into the drains, sweep it up and put it in the bin.
  • Leftovers – collect leftover oil and fat in an airtight container to prevent bad smells.
  • Waste oil - arrange for your leftover oil to be collected by a licensed contractor.

Alongside good kitchen practice, there’s specialist equipment available that prevents fats, oils and greases reaching your waste pipes.

Grease removal units

Grease removal unit mechanism

A grease removal unit (GRU) can be fitted to kitchen appliances such as sinks, combination ovens and dishwashers. They take the fats, oils and greases from your dirty water and automatically put it into a container for you to get rid of. They need to be emptied every day, so this needs to be planned into the daily cleaning routine.

Grease separators

Grease separator mechanism

Grease separators are placed in drain pipes, and separate fats, oils and greases from your wastewater. The waste stays in the separator which needs to be checked and cleaned out frequently.

If you're thinking about installing grease management equipment, contact a supplier to get a site survey. This will help you choose the best equipment for your premises. Remember that this equipment, like any other, requires regular maintenance in order to work effectively.

Information packs

Everyone is responsible for helping prevent blockages caused by fats, oils, greases and food waste. If you run a catering venture, you’ll have more oil and fat than households. Professional kitchens, in particular, are a big cause of blockages in our region. Discharging fats, oils, greases and food waste into sewers is illegal. As a business, you’re responsible for the careful and legal disposal of them to stop them from getting into the sewage system.

To help explain how to manage them we’ve produced three useful publications that are free to download.

Keeping drains clear booklet

It’s illegal to allow anything to get in the drains that could prevent the free flow of wastewater. This booklet is full of tips to make sure you don’t break the law.

Managing your waste poster

Ready for you to print and display in your workplace, this poster tells you the dos and don’ts for managing your kitchen waste. You could put it by the sink in your kitchen.

Managing your waste booklet

This booklet tells you more about grease management and the special equipment you can install. It has illustrations showing how effective management helps prevent blockages and explains your legal responsibilities. It also explains how to get your waste oil collected and recycled by an approved contractor.

Your legal requirements

We work closely with businesses to help them adopt the right ways of working in their kitchens. But the law is very clear — business owners must ensure their kitchen waste doesn’t block or damage our sewers.

The Water Industry Act 1991

It’s a criminal offence under section 111 of The Water Industry Act 1991 to release anything into the public sewers that could interfere with the free flow of wastewater. When the wrong things are in the sewers, there is a real potential for damage to the environment, homes and businesses.

If a water company discovers that the wrong things are going down the drain, they can prosecute the person responsible. If you’re prosecuted you could face an unlimited fine or even imprisonment.

Understanding the law

We recommend that you read through the legal acts relating to your business, however here are some of the key things you need to know to make sure you’re on the right side of the law:

  • If your business serves hot food, by law you need to have a grease separator installed (Building Regulations Part H 2002).
  • If your kitchen waste is collected, you need to keep a record of collections in case you need to prove the contractor is licensed and registered (The Environment Protection Act 1990).
  • You can be prosecuted if you allow kitchen waste to cause smells or a build-up of rubbish (Environmental Protection Act 1990).
  • You can’t use leftover cooking oil for animal feed or get rid of it at a landfill (Animal By-Products Regulations).
  • A Local Authority can order you to install a grease trap for any building you use as part of your business (The Building Act 1984).
  • Your business can be inspected by the Local Authority to check whether you’re managing your kitchen waste properly (The Food Safety Act).
  • Your business must be registered with your local authority (EC Regulation 852/2004).