Information about the statutory obligation to cater, the objective of catering teams, training available to prisoners and examples of good practice in catering.

Statutory obligation

Prison catering departments are required, under the Northern Ireland Prison and Young Offenders Rules 1995 to….

'provide every prisoner with sufficient food which is wholesome, nutritious, palatable, adequately presented and well prepared and which takes into account age, health, and work and, as far as practicable, religious or cultural requirement' (Rule 82).

Objective of catering teams

The main objective of every Prison Service catering team is:

 'to provide a varied and healthy menu which takes account of prisoners preferences whilst maintaining compliance with all relevant food safety legislation.'

In-house teams

The prison service catering requirements are supplied by an 'in-house' team of various officer and civilian grades who provide meals for staff and prisoners, 365 days a year. The catering departments also have in place dedicated contingency plans for all emergency situations, fire, searches, etc.


As part of the overall service, training may be available to prisoners. Where applicable, courses are structured, delivered, assessed, qualified and certificated to national standards. These awards range from Level 1 food hygiene training which is fully accredited with The Royal Institute for Public Health and Hygiene (RIPHH) and The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) to National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) Levels 1,2,3 Food Preparation and Cooking. All training for prisoners can be acknowledged with an internationally recognised qualification that is acknowledged and accepted globally and can prove to be an invaluable tool to securing employment on their return to society.

These training standards are quality assessed on an annual basis to ensure they meet all the requirements laid down by the hospitality industry and the governing bodies of food safety.

Examples of good practice

All prisoners are offered a multi-choice menu with at least 4 main meal choices and 3 light meal choices, which include vegetarian, healthy (low fat) and ethnic options.

All prisoners are surveyed annually and any relevant issues or suggestions raised are acted upon / introduced.

Kitchens consistently pass and often supersede the legal requirements of annual inspections by the Environmental Health Officer (EHO).

All Northern Ireland prisons have successfully achieved the quality standards award ISO 9001:2008.

The catering department has worked with the Training and Tourism Board in an effort to secure employment in the hospitality industry on a prisoner's release from custody.

The catering departments work closely with and actively seek the guidance of recognised dieticians and representatives from religious bodies when constructing menu choices. 

Related articles

Back to top