The preparation of food is basically not a low-risk activity in the food business: cooling and storing food always involves risks if temperature control fails. A third of food poisoning epidemics in Finland could be prevented by cooling food quickly enough and storing it cold enough.
Under the Food Act (297/2021), a private person may, subject to certain conditions, operate low-risk restaurant activities without needing to notify the municipal food control authority. Pop-up restaurant activities are also possible as a sole trader (under a trading name), as long as the other conditions for pop-up restaurant activities are met. Pop-up restaurant activities are subject to net sales limit of EUR 15,000.
Pop-up restaurant activities have earlier been set up mostly in conjunction with Restaurant Day events four times a year. Because the Restaurant Day will henceforth take place just once a year, the event no longer defines pop-up restaurant activities or how long they last.
However, pop-up restaurants have an important role in upholding a vibrant culinary culture. This is why the Finnish Food Authority has drawn up a policy as to what pop-up restaurant activities are considered as food business operations that the operator does not need to notify to the municipal food control authorities (Food Act, 297/2021, section 10, subsection 2(2)).
What is low risk?
Pop-up activities must be of the lowest possible risk. The following are examples of the preparation of food that may be considered as being low risk or reasonably low risk activities:
- making ham or cheese sandwiches
- making and immediately serving soup, hot pots and casserole foods (laatikkoruoat).
Large-scale preparation of food cannot be considered as being a low risk or even reasonably low risk activity.
Nor can the following examples be considered as low risk preparation or serving of food:
- steak tartare
- medium cooked minced meat patties
- fresh-salted fish
- fish roe or sushi dishes.
There are special risks involved in the handling and preparation of these foods. In the case of such pop-up restaurants, the food control authority in the municipality in which the pop-up restaurant will operate must be notified four (4) weeks before the start of activities.
Good hygiene and good quality raw materials
Very good hygiene and good hand hygiene must be complied with in handling foods. A person who is ill must not prepare food.
The raw materials used must be fresh and of good quality.
- All vegetables must be washed before use and root vegetables must be washed before and after peeling.
- Meat and fish served must be cooked.
- Especially when handling easily perishable food, food storage and serving temperatures must be taken into account: hot for hot food and cold for cold food.
- The proper handling of foods prevents cross contamination of raw and cooked foods. The handling of edible foods as such also requires very special care. Utensils used in the preparation of food must not spread bacteria or allergens.
The low-risk way to operate is to ensure that food served hot is made from fresh raw materials and is served immediately after preparation.
Pop up may not be pursuit of a trade
A Pop-up operator must be a private person, which means that activities may not be pursuit of a trade.
The general requirements of the Food Act apply to pop-up restaurant operators. They have a responsibility at all times for the safety of the food they prepare and serve even though they are not required to notify their activities to the control authorities.
Pop-up restaurant operators must, when asked by the customer, disclose the country of origin of the food and whether the food they serve contains substances that may cause allergy or intolerance.
Although pop-up restaurant operators are not required to have a hygiene passport, it is recommended that they take the passport test.
Twelve pop-up days in a calendar year
The Food Authority considers that a pop-up restaurant can operate 12 days in a calendar year before notification of a food establishment need be made. The Food Authority recommends that pop-up restaurants operate short term, preferably on individual days, which makes it easier to control food safety.
The Food Authority recommends that
- pop-up restaurants clearly inform consumers that they are pop-up restaurants
- the name of the person responsible for activities is clearly displayed to consumers.
Municipal food inspectors can, if necessary, also inspect pop-up restaurants to ensure hygienic ways of working and food safety, and to prevent food poisoning.
Pop-up restaurant activities may need advice also about other notices and permits concerning, for example, restaurant location, the sale of products other than foods, the pursuit of a trade or taxation. In such matters, the advice is to turn to the relevant authority such as the municipality or tax office.