Food hygiene inspections
The Council's Food Safety Officers are responsible for inspecting around 1200 food business in the District, everything from food factories to restaurants and burger vans. It is estimated that around five million people suffer from food poisoning in England and Wales each year, so it is important that regular checks are made.
Officers are able to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours. They do not have to make an appointment and will usually visit a premises without giving any notice.
Some food premises are inspected at least every 6 months, while others are only inspected once every 5 years. How often the premises are inspected will depend on the level of risk associated with the business. The risk depends upon the type of food business, the nature of the food, the degree of handling, the number and type of customers served, the design and structure of the premises and confidence in management.
Those premises posing a higher risk to the consumer will be inspected more regularly than those premises with a low risk. It is important to note that these are minimum inspection frequencies and local authorities may carry out more frequent inspections if they consider it to be necessary.
The Inspection Process
During an inspection, Officers will want to reassure themselves that potential food safety risks have been identified by the business, and that there are adequate controls in place to prevent any problems. They will also look at the training of managers and food handlers to ensure that it is suitable, and they will check that the condition of the premises and equipment is satisfactory.
The officer will then carry out a detailed inspection, which may include the following:
- Looking at the cleanliness and structural condition of the premises.
- Ensuring compliance with regulations.
- Examining, various records in relation to the adequacy of training of staff, temperature monitoring of frozen, chilled, cooked and re-heated foodstuffs, cleaning schedules and pest control records
- Discussing food safety practices and procedures.
- Taking samples for microbiological examination
At the end of the inspection the officer will discuss the findings with the proprietor or other person in charge. In particular they will:
- Discuss and explain any significant findings.
- Make a clear distinction between contraventions and recommendations of good practice.
- Explain what enforcement action, if any, is proposed.
- Discuss solutions to problems and time scales for action.
Where practices or conditions are not satisfactory, every attempt will be made to resolve the situation by informal means, but where poor conditions persist, or where there is a risk to public health it may be necessary to resort to formal action. This could involve either the service of a legal notice, prosecution, or in extreme cases closure of the business. After the inspection, the officer will write to the proprietor of the food business, confirming the visit and providing details of any areas requiring attention.
The letter will clearly state the statutory requirements that are not being complied with and what has to be done to comply with the law. Reasonable time will be given to comply, except where there is an immediate risk to public health, when other enforcement action may be taken. In addition advice on good practice will be provided.
Some premises producing products of animal origin may require approval under EC Regulation 853/2004 before the business can operate.