From Hive to Honeypot (Part 4): Preparation, Hygiene and Handling

From Bee Craft: June 2009

Andy Pedley

When extracting you need to make sure your extracting room and personnel are clean


Excellent (free) training resources are available online

  • reviewing your equipment to make sure it is in good condition and serviceable
  • clearing up – kitchens are usually the hub of the home and used for food preparation, pet care, laundry, etc. You need to separate normal domestic uses from the food business use and put the area into ‘honey extracting mode’. Then you only do the extracting/ bottling in there. Don’t do the laundry, cook the Sunday roast, etc, at the same time
  • putting out the dog, the cat, pot plants, cigarettes, ash trays, etc
  • making sure everything is clean. Start with the ceiling and walls and ensure there’s no dust, cobwebs, mould, flaking paint, etc, that could fall into your honey. Use a detergent sterilant (sanitiser) and a clean cloth when cleaning
  • ensuring there is soap, nailbrush and towel at
  • the wash basins. These days antibacterial hand washes are available and are strongly recommended
  • putting a sign saying ‘Now Wash Your Hands’, close to the loo. Reserve the sink for washing equipment (another sign is needed saying ‘Equipment Washing Only’)
  • checking the first aid kit has waterproof dressings. Ideally these should be high visibility (blue) ones that are easy to see
  • removing outdoor clothing (coats, shoes, etc) from the food room
  • fitting windows and vents with insect-proof screens which can be removed for cleaning. If opening a window exposes food to a risk of contamination then just keep it closed while the food processing is being undertaken
  • making sure you have a supply of cleaning chemicals, cloths, brushes, etc, to enable proper cleaning of the production area. Keep them somewhere safe where they cannot contaminate the food
  • putting up a ‘No Smoking’ sign. This is a legal requirement, even if no one smokes.

Please note this is a summary of the requirements and may not be exhaustive. There’s a particularly good summary at


It’s worth having a checklist and ticking things off as you do them. You can find a suitable one at A completed checklist for each session is one of the records that you’ll need to keep with a cross reference to your lot number, as appropriate.

Signs don’t have to be permanent or printed. A hand written one on a sheet of A4 and fixed up with ‘blu-tac’ for the duration will suffice. However, if you are producing honey on a commercial basis, proper printed/self-adhesive signs are better.

Some domestic kitchens simply won’t be suitable for use as a food room, perhaps owing to insufficient space.

Consider your alternatives.

Some beekeeping associations have an ‘extracting room’ which their members can use.

Maybe you can work at a friend’s house or arrange with a local food business to use their kitchen on a day or time when they are closed. It would be your responsibility to ensure that these facilities were up to the necessary standard if you decided to use them.


It is a legal requirement that food handlers receive training or instruction in food hygiene and that they are adequately supervised. Anyone supervising must be trained.


A well-prepared food handler – hat, gloves, clean clothes and an apron

While there is no minimum qualification specified, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Level 1 Award in Food Safety /level_i_food_safety.htm has been suggested as suitable.

There are excellent – and free – training resources available under the ‘Safer Food Better Business’ (SFBB) section of the Food Standards Agency website (http://snipurl.c0m/4amxp). You can download the material to your computer but be aware that it is a big file. The section can be ordered from Food Standards Agency Publications on 0845 606 0667 or e-mail

Your local authority Environmental Health Department is likely to have useful information and may offer training courses too.

If you have had some training, then make a record of it. Even reading this article counts!


  • Food handlers need to be fit and well. If you are suffering from any infectious disease, or are unwell with vomiting, diarrhoea, etc, then you must not work as a food handler until you have recovered.
  • Cuts, sores, grazes, etc, must be covered with a waterproof dressing. Wearing disposable vinyl gloves as well as using waterproof dressings is especially useful as these can help protect your hands.
  • wear a wristwatch, rings, bangles, necklaces, etc.
  • wear clean and readily
  • cleansable clothing (a head-cover, a beard snood if you are hirsute and a white coat, boiler suit or apron. Disposable gloves can also be useful).
  • Although it is a great temptation, DO NOT LICK YOUR FINGERS. You wouldn’t spit in your honey and licking fingers has the same effect.
  • Don’t eat or drink while you are working either. Hand-to-mouth contact (and hand-to-hair, -ear, -nose and so on) is a no-no in food hygiene and one of the reasons why food handlers are not permitted to smoke.
  • Hand washing is important – before you start, while you are working and every time you go to the loo. Use an antibacterial hand cleanser and wash your hands very thoroughly, using a nailbrush.


There are six stages to hand washing: palm-to-palm, backs of hands, inter-digital spaces, fingertips, thumbs and wrists, and nails. There’s a video in the SFBB material at showing how it should be done.

Disposable paper towels are recommended – a roll of kitchen paper will suffice.

Keep the work area clear -refuse needs to be disposed of via a covered bin.

Tidy as you go. 


Fuller information can be found at 


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