A lot of Zimbabweans are getting into so many businesses nowadays. One of the domains most people are venturing into is the food industry. However, I have noticed that many people are oblivious to licensing and regulatory stipulations. The food industry is a sensitive one given the delicate nature of foodstuffs. If the safety, handling, and processing of food are not done correctly the consequences can be grave. That is why it is essential to make sure you are licensed and adhere to regulatory frameworks. In this article, I discuss some of the pertinent details regarding licensing in Zimbabwe’s food industry.

Foods Outlets Licensing

I felt it is also important to cover food outlets given their pivotal role in the food industry. In case you did not know, there is a form from the respective municipality that you must fill. There are basically 7 types of licenses you can apply for (shop and municipal licenses) – Class 1 to Class 9; it depends on the type of business in question. Class 1 is for fishmongers, class 2 is for butcheries, classes 3, 4, 6, 8, and 9 are for food purveyors; class 5 is for takeaways.

Then we have another set of licenses which are municipal licenses only. These apply to abattoirs, canteens, food vending machines, hotels, lodges (or guest houses), keeping of equine animals, bakeries, caterers, restaurants, food factories, coffee shops, amongst others.

When applying for a license there is a Business Licenses Application Form that you have to fill. Applications are handled by the health department of a municipality. Other signatories on the application form will be an Environmental Health Officer and Director of Health Services.

Food And Food Standards Act

It is important to be abreast with the provisions of SIs related to the food industry. To start with you should be familiar with the Food and Food Standards Act. I cannot go into detail in this article but you must get a hold of it. Take SI 236 of 2019 – Food Standards (Food Labelling) (Amendment) for instance. Let me cite some of the things contained in SI 236 of 2019 that have huge implications on food safety.

It stipulates that it is illegal for any person to change the dates of minimum durability on the label without permission from the Secretary for Health. It also highlights that it must be clearly labelled if the food or ingredient thereof has at least 1 per cent genetically modified components. It also indicates that where artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners have been added, they must be clearly labelled using the same font size as the product name. You must also know that food labels must be submitted to the Food Standards Advisory Board for approval.

If you want to know the list of permitted food additives, refer to SI 136 of 2001. It would also be wise to familiarize yourself with SI 265 of 2002. These are all central to understanding some of the core regulatory elements in the food industry.

Standard Inspection Of Food Premises

Before a license is issued there is a standard inspection report of your food premises that is needed. It is done by the Environmental Health Officer; no wonder why they are one of the signatories on the application form.

30 things need to check out for your standard inspection report to look good. Ceilings, walls, doors, windows, ventilation, lighting, gents’ sanitation, ladies sanitation, and water supply are inspected. Drainage, gulley traps (and grease traps), grounds, external walls, gutters, steps, refuse, storerooms, coving between floors and walls, and deep bowl sink with draining board are inspected. Wash hand basin in food handling areas, separate staff sanitary for males and females and change room facilities are looked at as well.

There should be cold rooms for butchers, refrigeration for perishables, worktop or surfaces, hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), and hot water. A kitchen must be a third of the dining area. Staff sanitary and change room facilities must form an integral part of the building housing the business and must be entered from within. The 30th aspect is on food handlers – 7 attributes are evaluated here. These are appearance, medical examinations, protective clothing, nails, sores, smoking, and dressing rings.

As you can see your premises require lots of focus and investment. They constitute a huge element to your overall ability to properly handle, process, and ensure the safety of the food in question.

I am sure this article will be useful in helping you understand licensing and regulation in the food industry in Zimbabwe. Most people try to skirt all these requirements and cut corners. Not only does this jeopardize your business but it also puts prospective customers at risk. So I encourage you to always adhere to licensing and regulation when you start food industry businesses in Zimbabwe.