Register your food business

Do I need a licence to run a food business?

With some exceptions, most food businesses don't require a licence to operate.

There's often confusion about consent to operate and this is usually coupled to a misunderstanding of some common terms such as 'licence', 'registration', 'approval' etc.

To help you, here's the answers to a few frequently asked questions.

Do I need a licence to start a food business?

Not in most cases unless you also intend to trade on the street. This is covered in the street trader's question below.

However, you must register your new food business with the council. Food business operators should register with us at least 28 days before trading begins. This is to allow us time to carry out a food safety inspection of your business before you open your doors to the public.

If you give us sufficient advance notice, we will do our best to arrange for an inspection of your new food business within a few working days. Please note that you mustn't start trading without speaking to us first.

To register your business, please download and complete a food registration form from the link on this page.

What's a street trader's licence?

If you intend to operate a business on the street whether food related or not, you may need a licence to do so.

All food business operators (or FBOs) need to be licensed.

You won't receive your street trader's licence from the council unless you have a 'certificate of compliance' in respect of your vehicle, stall, marquee etc.

To obtain this certificate from us, your mobile premises must fully comply with food safety law. Apart from any structural requirements, as a FBO, you must also be able to show us that you can comply with other important aspects of food safety law including training and/or supervision of your staff, the provision of an effective food safety risk management system etc.

A copy of the street trader's licence application form and guidance notes is available for you to download.

I've heard that food businesses need council 'approval' but what does this mean?

'Approval' is a term applied to specialist food businesses concerned with the manufacture of foods of animal origin. Examples include meat products production, shellfish processing, dairy processing, collagen manufacture etc.

This type of business can't trade legally without successfully undergoing an approval process conducted by the council's Environmental Health or Food Safety officers.

This includes a rigorous, systematic appraisal of the business's food safety practices, its hazard analysis and critical control point plan (or HACCP plan) as well as its compliance with set down structural standards and hygiene provisions particular to the type of approval being sought e.g. different requirements apply to a shellfish processor than do to a meat products manufacturer.

What about market operator's licences where food businesses are involved?

The principal market operator requires a licence but individual food businesses within the market don't. However, this does not absolve these food businesses from their legal responsibility to comply with food safety law and we will expect to see proof of food premises registration with us or another local authority's Environmental Health section.

Action can be taken against any problem food premises within a market place irrespective of the market operator's licence.

The council's legal services team deals with all market licence applications. If you're thinking about applying, our advice is to consult with us at the earliest possible stage so that we may guide you on compliance with food safety legislation and best practice.

Late hours catering licence

Late night catering is controlled by the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.

This means that a 'late hours catering licence' is needed by any person serving food, whether from a 'sit-in', 'carry-out', temporary or permanent food business between the hours of 11.00 pm and 5.00 am. The licence provides an extension to a business's normal trading hours.

Conditions may be imposed, such as a restriction on opening hours. 

When you make your application, our service and other interested parties, within and outwith the council, will be invited to comment.

For us this usually means an inspection of your food business by one of our Environmental Health team to assess your compliance with food safety law.

The outcome of our inspection will be made clear to you and reported to the council's licensing section too to help them determine your application.

Please use the 'contact us' box if you have any questions. For more information, see 'downloads' and 'related pages'.

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