With the country in lockdown and having more spare time than ever before, there has been a concerning rise in food businesses operating out of people’s homes and selling on social media. Many of these businesses have been set up by people who have lost their jobs or are on furlough, including professional chefs hit by the closure of restaurants. Instead of opening the next market stall or restaurant, they are using the power of Instagram and Facebook to try and succeed in the crowded market.
However, the food safety watchdog has issued an alert that Britons could be putting their health at serious risk as many of these ‘home-cookers’ are not registering as official food businesses, meaning that their food hygiene arrangements are not checked. They are operating under the radar and often you won’t find any trace of them outside of Instagram, not even a website. They simply post a picture of something freshly prepared and the rest of the conversations happens on a ‘DM’ to decide on the price and the location from where the order is to be picked up.
There has been a “concerning” rise in food businesses operating out of people’s homes during lockdown, according to the food safety watchdog.
Many of them are selling food through social media, putting further pressure on a hygiene inspection system that is under strain because of the crisis.
And other experts are also worried.
“Little food businesses are popping up like mushrooms in lockdown,” said Julie Barratt from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).
“There are rank outsiders operating off the radar, who think, ‘Oh, my mum can cook’, and confuse cooking with catering,” she added. They sell to locals on apps such as Whatsapp, Instagram and Nextdoor.
Many are failing to register as food businesses, meaning their hygiene arrangements are not checked by local authorities.
But even those that do register are often not getting an inspection – despite new businesses usually being a priority – because the system is struggling to keep up during the pandemic.
Hygiene inspections ceased completely during the first lockdown and since then a scaled-back operation has focused on high-risk cases.