What happens at a Food Hygiene Inspection?
During an inspection of a food business premises an Environmental Health Officer/Food Officer audits and inspects premises in accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice and Food Law Practice Guidance.
The aim is to make sure Food Business Operators and their staff are meeting legal Food Hygiene and Safety requirements and that the food they are producing/selling (or even gifting as a sample) is safe for customers to eat.
To do this the officer(s) will talk to a business owner, a manager and staff about their activities and how they manage food safety. They will also look at the establishments Food Safety documentation as well as assessing the structure of the premises. During the course of the inspection the officer(s) may take photographs, samples or swabs: if they do this they should explain why they are doing this.
How does an Environmental Health Officer undertake a Food Hygiene Inspection?
To be able to issue an accurate food hygiene rating, the EHO will want to evaluate the following points below.
They must be confident in the food businesses ability to manage a food business and their understanding of Food Safety management and the risks involved.
The EHO will ask staff about any quality control systems and practices and will ask questions to establish their undertsanding of risks and how to control them
The EHO will look at every part of the premises and equipment
The EHO will ask about staff training, controlling hazards and temperature control
The EHO may want to see the businesses recipes, their Food Saftey Management Systems, maintenance and production records, temperature records and staff sickness records too. (All these documentsshould be referred to in the Premises Food Saftey Management System , such as Safer Food Better Business or similar)
They might also take photographs, samples and swabs from the premises
How do Environmental Health and Food Officers judge a business and award a Food Hygiene Rating Score
Environmental Health and Food Officers work to the guidelines of the Food Safety Code of Practice when conducting hygiene inspections.
They use Food Safety legislation (Regulation (EC) 852/2004) to determine
- compliance of structural standards,
- hygiene knowlegde, standards and practices, and
- policies and procedures implemented and maintained to accuratley record(document) how you protect the food you prepare and serve
Our job is to make sure that your food hygiene standards meet legal requirements and your food is safe to eat. To do that they’ll look at:
How hygienically is food prepared, cooked, reheated, cooled and stored?
How much does the unit’s structure lend itself to food hygiene? i.e. Do the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation etc. aid hygienic food handling?
Can the policies and systems laid out in the Food Saftey Management System ensure that food safety will always be maintained?
What happens if there is a problem?
There are a number of actions an Environmental Health and Food Officer can take if they find contraventions of food hygiene legislation in a catering business.
Dependent on the seriousness of the issue, they might:
- Write informally to you outlining the contraventions they witnessed and providing you with a timescale in which to rectify them
- Serve an improvement notice if breaches of the law have been identified, which formally instructs you to correct the issues
- The officer may discuss with you voluntary procedures to help rectify contraventions – this might include voluntary surrender of food rather than formally seizing or detaining it or a voluntary closure of your premises instead of serving a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice (see below) which can formally close your business but the voluntary closure means that a notice won’t be placed on the door
- Serve a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice if there is an imminent risk to consumers. A Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice can be used to stop the use of processes, premises or equipment
- If an officer advises you to do something they must make it clear whether you need to do it to comply with the law (legal requirement) or whether they are recommending it as good practice only
- The officer must give you a reasonable period of time in which to carry out required work except if there is an imminent risk to public health
- Exclude any food handler from working if they are suffering from a food-borne illness or infectious disease
- For bvery serious, or persistent breaches of legislation: a food busienss may be prosecuted which could result in fines or event imprisonment.
- Prosecution can also lead to a person being banned from running a food business in the future and /or the prohibition of a process and/or use of premises or equipment.
What to do if you receive an improvement notice
Where formal Notices have been served: the recipient of the Notices (usually be the person registered as the food business operator or owner of the premises) must take immediate steps to comply with the Notice.
They must keep the EHO up-to-date with any progress and contact the Environmental Health Department immediately if they are unable to comply with the requirments on the Notice within the specified time period.