Why are food hygiene inspections carried out at my food premises?
Environmental Health Officers may visit your premises for a number of reasons:
- to carry out a routine food hygiene inspection
- to investigate a complaint (e.g. consumer complaints about an item of food, hygiene standards or unsafe food handling practices)
- to sample food, or test the cleanliness of food contact surfaces
- to investigate allegations of food poisoning arising from your premises
Officers will look at the way you operate your business to assess if you are complying with the law. The options for enforcement after this assessment range from informal advice and guidance to prosecution and/or closure.
What can I expect when an Environmental Health Officer carries out an inspection?
The visit will usually be unannounced during your opening hours. They do not have to make an appointment and have the right to inspect your food premises at any reasonable time.
The officer is not there to 'catch you out' but will provide advice on good practice during the inspection.
The officer will give you a hand-written report on the inspection before leaving and, if necessary will write to you to confirm what you need to do.
Where serious contraventions of the law are found, an officer can serve a hygiene improvement notice. It is an offence not to comply with these notices. If there is an imminent risk to health, officers can serve an emergency prohibition notice that forbids the use of the premises. This notice must be confirmed by the court.
In serious cases a prosecution could be instituted. If this is successful the Court may impose fines and a prohibition on the premises.
The Food Standards Agency gives further advice on this subject.
What will happen if an officer finds problems with food hygiene standards at my business?
This depends on the seriousness of the problem. Minor contraventions will result in the officer advising on how best to rectify the situation. More serious matters will be dealt with more formally; this may range from the service of statutory notices to possible prosecution for very serious offences.
The Food Safety Team operates within an enforcement policy that sets out the range of factors and actions likely to be taken to ensure that business comply with legal requirements.
Can the Council close down a food business which doesn't comply with hygiene standards?
Yes, but conditions in the business have to pose a serious risk to the public before this can happen. Examples include a serious pest infestation or very dirty premises.
How often do we inspect?
All food businesses in the City are inspected on a regular basis to ensure that the food sold to the public is safe to consume. The frequency of these inspections depends upon the potential risk posed by the type of business and its previous record.
After the inspection food businesses are given a score based on the level of food safety found during the visit. The scoring system is contained in the Food Law Code of Practice, which all food authorities must adhere to. This score is then used to determine how often the business is inspected. The frequency of inspections ranges from six months for the highest risk businesses to five years for low risk businesses.
The score will also determine the rating the business is awarded under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.
We enforce legislation in accordance with Government guidance and our approved Enforcement Policy. If you would like to comment on any aspect of our Enforcement Policy please use the 'Contact Us' option at the top of the page.