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Positive Activities for Young People Team Leader, Luton Borough Council

Food Safety Consultancy

How to make effective use of a food safe diary – Safer Food Better Business.

An exception reporting diary such as the SFBB diary was created by Salford University HACCP Centre as a way of allowing small food businesses to comply with HACCP principle to establish documented records. The alternative is for the business to keep records that record actions taken at every control point and critical control point.

The Diary is an easy, user friendly and efficient way of storing information. Everyone understand how a diary works – it is a book in which you record events arranged by date. Typically it is used for recording appointments and other planned activities, and for reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. For most of us it is an essential tool of our daily lives, albeit most of us now use an electronic version.

Although the diary was intended for small businesses, it can also be used in large and complex food outlets when supported by traditional records – a type of fusion HACCP.

To see an example of a food safe diary, visit the Food Standard Agency website; then scroll down to the diary.

Essentially, the Diary is a page a day/shift continuous diary with a place on each page for the manager to sign to say that he or she has supervised their premises and made sure the Safe Methods were followed.

It also includes a tick box for the manager to confirm daily opening and closing checks have been undertaken: this includes checking that there are all the necessary cleaning and hand washing products in plentiful supply and that staff are clean, tidy and fit for work, and checking that at the end of the day there is no food left out, everything is cleaned and put away, and that all stock past its used by date has been thrown away.

On each page of the Diary there is also a table for noting down any changes or problems that have been encountered, and what action was taken.

To make the Diary a more useful tool, there is space on each page for the manager to write down other information that they need to keep track of, such as bookings or orders.

There are also key staff, essential tradesmen, services and enforcement contact list, staff training list, an address section for all suppliers, cleaning schedule, prove it records and 4 weekly review.

The 4 weekly reviews is a HACCP Principle and must be completed to show the manager has address changes such as new staff or menu items and has documented the appropriate action taken, such as training or Safe Method adaptation.

The Diary represents the essential record keeping component of an exception reporting food safety management system. Reasons for keeping information of this kind include:

1. Communicate within the business, i.e. shift changes and staff updates.

2. Historical record to help identify commonly occurring problems that need to be solved.

3. Gives the enforcement officer confidence that management have effective food safety controls in place and respond promptly to failures.

4. Identifies to both staff and enforcement officers who is responsible for food safety on every day or shift.

For the restaurant business, a diary is where customer bookings are kept. It can often be a bulging collection of receipt notes, invoices, order lists, customer complaint letters, and cash and carry documents. It can operate rather like the brain centre of the operation – a storage place for the blizzard of paperwork that snows down on all businesses. With a little work, the SFBB Diary can easily be fitted into the work of the kitchen and can take on the normal functions of the businesses diary, whilst helping to provide records for the monitoring and improvement of food safety. This is the dairy’s greatest strength; it is not another piece of bureaucracy weighing down the entrepreneurial skills of the manger but an integral part of running an efficient business.

Implementing the Diary takes a very short time. After a little practice, it becomes an essential tool for the business. Other strengths of the dairy are that when used continually it helps improve communication between staff.

The Diary can act as a log of what has happened and a message board for information that staff wish to communicate to the manager. This is useful in kitchens where there are different shifts and little opportunity for handover meetings, notes can be made about such issues as ingredient shortages, or machinery problem.

Many business I have visited fail to use the dairy in this way, when I identify this missed opportunity, I quote this example to demonstrate how recording information in a permanent record can help solve long-standing problems:

A recent inspection of a busy kitchen showed that the seals on a large fridge were perished and needed replacement. When I asked the chef why it had not been replaced she confirmed that she had reported the matter several times to the manager. When I asked the manager he did recall one request but did not realise the urgency. I pointed out to both of them that if notes had been made in the Diary requesting that the seals be purchased, the manager would have been in a better position to respond.

I visited a month later and the chef confirmed that moving from reporting problems verbally, to making short notes in the Diary had improved responses from everyone in the business. A quick word is easily forgotten, but a written note stays on show demanding an answer.

Although the Diary is familiar and is used in our food management system as a convenient way of storing data, it is essentially a food safety information system. That is, a system of locating all the information that might affect food safety in one place. By locating such things as supplier invoices, contractors details and schedules, machine maintenance details, customer complaints, enforcement reports and the like together we can respond to problems quickly. For example, if a member of staff sees a sign of pest entry, the pest contractor can be contacted immediately as their telephone number will be in the Diary. Similarly if a machine breaks down – like the freezer, the maintenance contractor may be called in straight away. If the manager is away, the Diary represents a source of information for the staff to use.

Even more usefully, the problems that occur in the business are recorded in a way that allows them to be reviewed easily, so repetitive problems that can otherwise be ignored, are solved. For instance, the breakdown of a microwave at one business was seen as just a passing issue to be solved by the purchase of a cheap domestic microwave from a multiple retailer. However, when the manager looked back through his Diary, he saw that the microwave ovens he was buying were lasting only a few weeks. He then bought a more expensive commercial microwave that was more suitable for the demands of his busy kitchen, it was more reliable and he saved money over the year.

The gathering of all documents and records in one place allows the owner to show quickly the things that have occurred and how problems have been solved. Questions over such issues as pest control contracts or customer complaints can be answered by reference to the paperwork without the constant hunting around for the relevant information that often happens.

A food safety information system, such as the diary based one in SFBB, allows an inspector or auditor to see what has been happening over the period since his last visit. This will improve their estimation of how efficiently the business is being run, and how confident they are in the manager’s control of food safety. Failure of the diary to show this type of information will almost certainly prevent a business attaining 5 stars.

For more information how RSA can help your businesses to comply with HACCP principles to establish documented records contact Carol or Kae on 01933 626444 or email

Why use RSA for Food Safety?

RSA Food Safety has been operating since 1997, providing food safety advice to businesses of all types and sizes, from large hotels to small coffee shops and from food manufacturers to cruise ships.  We are experienced across all sectors.  We only use fully qualified and experienced Environmental Health Practitioners and Food Safety Consultants to provide you with the best advice available.  In addition, because our services are tailored to exactly match what you require, we ensure that we are as cost-effective as possible.


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